It’s just past 3 o’clock on a weekday, just a few weeks after the start of the school year.
A few dozen local students are gathered at Martin Exeter Hall, chatting, giggling and excitedly bouncing in their seats. It’s day two of rehearsal for Missoula Children Theatre’s recent production of The Pied Piper, a musical production featuring local talent ranging in age from five to 18.
With no time in their tight, week-long schedule to waste, the play’s directors get the rehearsal underway, and the children quickly snap to attention, reciting lines and confidently singing the play’s catchy songs.
Watching from the back of the hall are local theatre enthusiasts Gordon and Karen Smith.
The husband and wife team have been heavily involved in the local performing arts scene for many years, both on stage and behind the scenes.
As members of the 100 Mile Performing Arts Society, the couple are prepping for the latest offering – Four Short Threesomes, a selection of four comedies which is set to hit the stage in early March.
They both agree, a strong theatre scene in the South Cariboo community is a benefit to many, on stage and off.
“It’s a huge confidence builder for those who are taking part,” Gordon explains. “It helps people to know they can speak in public, give presentations and face different situations.”
Karen agrees, noting she had a hard time overcoming her insecurities prior to becoming involved in performing arts, speech arts and the local community choir.
“I was very, very shy. But I started with choir, and slowly worked my way up to small parts (in plays), in the chorus,” she recalls. “Before you know it, you’re progressing to getting speaking parts.”
Gordon points out that involvement in community theatre doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be on stage in front of a crowd. Many of the important roles required to putting on a theatrical production take place behind the scenes, and without those team members, he says, the show would not go on.
“There’s sometimes not as much recognition for those off stage as on, but some of those roles are equally, if not more important,” he says.
The Smiths compare a production cast and crew to that of a sports team, training together for a long period of time before taking to the stage. The “team” often becomes like family for one another, and there’s always an element of sadness when a show wraps up.
And while it’s a fulfilling experience for those in the cast and crew, they’re quick to point out that a successful stage show can be a huge boost for the community at large as well.
“It creates a lot of excitement and gives the community something to look forward to – a night out,” Gordon explains. “I know many people who make an evening out of it, they go for dinner then come see the show.”
Karen points to the group of youngsters gathered to rehearse that afternoon and remarks at what a difference she notices in the kids who take part in productions.
“It’s such a positive experience for them,” she says. “Watching how well they work with the directors… it’s all about having fun and life lessons.”
Though the Smiths recognize that auditioning for a play may not be everyone’s cup of tea, they point out that there are small ways to get involved with the Performing Arts Society – such as volunteering behind the scenes – that can pave the way to larger scale involvement down the road.
“It’s like when you’re learning mathematics, you don’t start out thinking that you’ll be able to do algebra, but you start with the simpler things like addition and subtraction and you work your way up to that,” Gordon says.
To find out more about the 100 Mile Performing Arts Society, visit www.perf-arts.100milearts.com.