MCT has 42 directing teams and has had productions in all 50 states and 20 countries
by: Jonathan House, LET IT SHINE – Katie and Jon Brantley, a directing team with Missoula Children’s Theatre, listen as students at Byrom Elementary audition for a part in the upcoming production of “Beauty Lou and the Country Beast.”

TUALATIN - One mention of 'the stage' and all 86 faces in Byrom Elementary's gymnasium lit up Monday afternoon.

The children could barely contain their excitement as they stood shoulder to shoulder along a large square. They screamed out and mockingly gave their names and grades. They all smiled, some stuttered, and others shied away from the directors as the game whittled down the choices for actors in the Missoula Children's Theatre production of 'Beauty Lou and the Country Beast.'

'It's a big, big project,' admitted Jim Caron, co-founder and CEO of MCT, as he sat to the side in Byrom Elementary's gymnasium Monday. 'We've had 65,000 kids in our shows. That's a full Yankee's stadium.'

MCT, like its name suggests, began in Missoula, Mont., in 1970. Caron and co-founder Don Collins had an idea for a children's theater company. While most children's theater companies use adults to tell a story to children, MCT uses kid actors.

'Just the other day I was in Houston watching (a directing team,) then in California yesterday,' Caron said.

'I spend a lot of time in airplanes,' he chuckled, adding, 'The program's really taken off.'

Today, MCT has 42 directing teams and has had productions in all 50 states and 20 different countries. And each of the performances, Caron said, uses original plays and songs.

At Byrom Elementary, the Parent School Organization sponsored the upfront money to bring the theater company to Byrom for the third consecutive year. According to Andrea McGrady, a presenter for MCT, productions with the company usually costs about $2,400. The cost covers the travel and set up expenses for the one-week program.

Ticket sales from the play, which will be held Saturday, Oct. 14 at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. at Tualatin High, are supposed to reimburse the PSO and pay for the entire program, McGrady said.

Enthusiasm for the program has grown in the last three years at Byrom. For the last two years, McGrady said, the school usually had just enough students audition to cover the parts in the play. This year 86 children auditioned for about 50 parts.

'The sad part is, not everyone will get to participate,' McGrady noted.

MCT directors have two hours to pick the actors. Actors have six days to learn the lines, the blocking and the dancing associated with their parts.

But what the kids take away from the program, Caron said, is a lifetime of experience.

Caron adds that some of their performing children have gone on to acting careers with parts in commercials and plays.

But, says Caron, the program has a heavy emphasis on the life skills.

'It's great to put a kid in a play. But it's a real accomplishment when a kid is the first in his family to go to college,' Caron said.

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