The Full Story

Since throwing open the doors to the MCT Center for the Performing Arts in 1998, we have hosted more than 1.3 million guests.

This past year, we estimate that 100,000 people – volunteers, board members, kids, program participants, touring artists, donors, performers, actors, dancers, students, tour groups, musicians, employees, patrons, out-of-town visitors, parents, vendors, brides and grooms, and many more – have come through our building. We love being Missoula’s unofficial community center, and we want to contribute to and be a catalyst for community vitality, artistry, and service for many years to come.

MCT has a significant economic footprint. We average 120 full-time staff members, about 50 of whom live in Missoula. We earn most of our $5.5 million budget outside Missoula and spend more than 70% of it locally. MCT employees volunteer at more than 50 local organizations, and we are members of the Missoula Chamber of Commerce, the Missoula Downtown Association, and Destination Missoula— the official Missoula Convention and Visitors Bureau, among others.

Where did this amazing company and collection of people come from? To answer that, we need to go back in time to the summer of 1970.

Jim Caron, an unemployed actor, was searching for a mission in life, on his way from Chicago to a friend’s wedding in Oregon when his aging Volkswagen van broke down. The nearest service station was – fortunately and fatefully – in Missoula, Montana. While waiting for the van to be patched together, Jim noticed an audition poster for Man of La Mancha. Just for fun, he auditioned and was cast in the role of “Sancho.” He developed an instant and lasting friendship with Don Collins (the actor playing “Don Quixote”), and together they organized a company of adults to perform plays for children on a make-shift stage in a local movie theatre. The plays, as well as the idea of developing live theatre for kids, were well-received in Missoula. Soon, nearby Montana and Idaho communities requested performances of their own.

During the early seventies, the company began casting kids when it seemed appropriate, such as in Hansel and Gretel or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In 1972, when February performances of Snow White were booked in Miles City (a small Montana community located an icy 500 miles from Missoula), Jim and the other directors were not excited about the prospect of traveling with seven children across the state and decided to take a radical step: they would attempt to cast the dwarfs from children in Miles City. The directors traveled across the state a week before the rest of the company, a bit skeptical about finding seven kids who might be interested in being in the play. When 450 children arrived, the astonished team auditioned the huge group and cast the seven roles. The success of that week—obvious major interest among kids, parents, teachers, and the press, as well as an excellent production and sold-out performances—opened the eyes of the MCT staff and the doors to the future.

The lessons learned in those early days, especially the rewards of involving children as cast members, set the stage for today’s International Tour, Performing Arts Camps, a strong local children’s season, Missoula Community Theatre, and the magnificent home base facility that MCT is proud to call home.

As for the future, MCT continues to reach for the stars.

We bring the arts to all 50 states, 5 Canadian Provinces and 16 countries. What more could you want, you ask? We have big dreams. We want to reach the small communities that have few creative outlets or resources for their children. We want to provide access for places that have none. We envision helping our country’s children grow into confident, successful citizens using the positive results of our programs. It is our dream to share everything we have learned about developing life skills in children with the world—in Japan, Australia, Africa, Ireland, and other countries. Kids are kids, no matter where they grow up. Children in China, children in small towns, and children with special needs all have something in common: a desire for opportunities to express themselves, learn and have fun doing it. That’s where MCT comes in.

We have the program.
We have the people.
We have the expertise.
We have the track-record.
We have the will.
We have the proof that the program works.
We have the dream.

“MCT is not so much a place as a collection of remarkable people with amazing vision, passion and energy!” – MCT Donor

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