Theater production at Orondo

The cast of the Missoula Children’s Theatre production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Orondo School. (Empire Press photo/Darlene Paterson)

 

By Darlene Paterson
Empire Press Correspondent

Rehearsal for the Missoula Children’s Theatre production of “Alice in Wonderland.” (Empire Press photo/Darlene Paterson)

Sixty-one students joined with Missoula Children’s Theatre to present “Alice in Wonderland” for the Orondo community on Oct. 27.

Children’s Theater actors and directors Sarah Puchalla and Patrick Riley arrived at Orondo School on Oct. 22 to assemble the set background and hold auditions for the production.  Four days of intensive rehearsals followed for the young thespians in kindergarten through eighth grade.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, two sessions of afterschool rehearsals prepared the students for their parts. The complete cast rehearsed from 2:15 to 4:15 p.m. After a break for snacks, the younger students were dismissed while the remaining cast practiced from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Friday morning’s dress rehearsal was followed by a performance for the entire student body and parents at 1:30 p.m.

Saturday’s community performance brought a large crowd to the school gymnasium. Cute children dressed as lobsters, crabs and flowers danced and sang with the White Rabbit and Alice. Some of the other characters included Humpty Dumpty, the Cheshire Cat, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the March Hare and the Queen of Hearts.

The audience is ready for the production of “Alice in Wonderland” to begin. (Empire Press photo/Darlene Paterson)

“It’s crazy they can accomplish all of this in a week’s time,” piano accompanist Dee Shriner said. “The PTA started bringing Missoula Children’s Theatre here back in 1998. They do a different play every year and I have played piano for the majority of them. It’s been fun. These young directors are very good at handling the kids and have chosen a great cast.”

Puchalla and Riley have been touring with Missoula Children’s Theatre since the end of May. During the summer months, they directed “The Princess and the Pea” in Rhode Island and New York before returning to Missoula to learn “Alice in Wonderland.” This fall they are touring throughout Washington and Oregon.

“Pretty much every week, we pack everything up and head to a different location,” Riley said. “Sometimes it’s crazy but it’s really fun and rewarding to see the kids learn to act.”

After graduating from Ohio Northern University last May, Riley traveled to Memphis, Tenn. where various theater companies hold auditions and hire for the upcoming year.

“I had not heard of Missoula Children’s Theatre before but after I heard their spiel, I thought it sounded really cool so I put in my application and interviewed with them,” Riley said. “They called me back and hired me, so this is technically my first post-graduate job. It’s been fun.”

Riley played the lead part of the White Rabbit in the Orondo production, and Puchalla acted as director. They switch roles alternating weeks.

“Missoula Children’s Theatre is loosely connected with the University of Montana, but we are our own separate company,” Puchalla said.

When asked how she maintained such great control of the kids, she answered, “Practice!”

Three different girls played the part of Alice during the play, to represent Alice at different sizes.

Makenna Foreman, who played Middle Alice in the production said, “It’s pretty fun being Alice. I’m in a lot of scenes, do different dances and memorize a lot of lines. I am really enjoying and having fun doing this.”

In addition to Foreman, Natalia Mora played Tall Alice and Adriana Negrete played Small Alice.

Madison Goodman and Valeria Martinez served behind the scenes as assistant directors. “I help the kids with their lines, get music ready and keep the kids quiet so there won’t be noise in the background,” Martinez said. “I am really enjoying it.”

“The quality of this theater production provides our kids with an opportunity they would not otherwise have,” school Principal Lance Young commented. “That’s why our school continues to bring Missoula Children’s Theatre here each year.”

In addition to support from the Orondo School District, other sponsors of the production were Mike and Bobbie Parker, Dee Shriner, and Stephanie Valente. Missoula Children’s Theatre is also supported in part by a grant from the Montana Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.