Theater company teaches kids acting world

Kids of all ages and sizes transformed into singing and dancing fish and sea creatures Thursday in Calera as they rehearsed for the Missoula Children’s Theater production of The Little Mermaid.

Commissioned by the Shelby County Arts Council, Missoula Children’s Theater travels to the area each summer to teach kids the fundamentals of theater.

Pat Bird is coordinating the five-day rehearsal.

“It all comes in that little truck,” Bird said. “They bring the sets, the costumes, the props — everything. The kids meanwhile learn commitment, discipline of the theater, self-confidence and of course, how to have fun.”

A total of 44 kids auditioned Monday to play the prince, Celia (similar character as Ariel in the Disney version), seasiders and seahorses.

Jane King of Calera brought her grandchildren Caleb and Samantha to participate. King first learned of the productions when her own son was just 10, and they lived in Missoula, Mont., where the theater originated.

“My son got involved 22 years ago, and now they’re still running and heading out internationally,” King said. “It gives all the kids a chance to participate in some way, and none of the kids are disappointed in what they are doing because each part is made exciting.”

Each production costs the arts council $3,800 apiece — money that is made up in ticket sales to each of the Saturday productions and each child’s $75 fee. With each production comes two directors who also must be housed. Calera’s directors are Amanda Dyke of Chillicothe, Ohio and Elizabeth Cozby who grew up in Idaho and Montana. The two women went over everything from stage presence to stage makeup with the kids.

“We’ve had a lot of home school kids and some kids do multiple productions,” Bird said. “There are even kids from as far away as Indiana who come because their grandparents have heard about it.”

Missoula will present Calera’s production of The Little Mermaid June 21 at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $6 for each performance for anyone over 4 years old. Kids who want to participate in a program still have a chance with the Chelsea production of Hansel and Gretel beginning Monday, June 23. Parents can sign their children up that morning. The fee for that production is also $75 and will take place at Chelsea High School.