By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

Lexie Flanagan will don a costume Friday night and put her all into bringing her character to life.

Flanagan, 17, has auditioned for every show Missoula Children’s Theatre has brought to Baker City over the past decade.

“I look forward to doing it every year,” she said.

MCT has helped her “get comfortable acting in front of people.”

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

“I still get nervous — I look at the exit sign,” Flanagan said.

“Pinocchio,” presented this weekend at Baker High School, is the 20th play to cast local youth.

“Little did I imagine when we started our journey with Missoula Children’s Theatre 10 years ago that we would be doing three shows a year,” said Ginger Savage, executive director of Crossroads Carnegie Art Center. “This program has had such a powerful impact on the children. We want the whole community to come and celebrate this remarkable milestone.”

Performances for the community are at 6 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday at Baker High School. Admission is $5, or free for ages 12 and younger.

This show is sponsored by Soroptimist of Baker County.

An ice cream social is planned for Friday after the show, sponsored by the Baker County Cultural Coalition and Ash Grove Cement Co.

About MCT

Missoula Children’s Theatre is located in Missoula, Montana. Throughout the year the company sends tour directors on the road with everything to put on a full musical production.

“We’re a miniature theater on the road,” Shiana Tyler said.

Tyler and Kourtney Ellis have toured “Pinocchio” for nine weeks.

Ellis grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, and the Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia area. She didn’t originally set out to be in theater. She first majored in music education, then switched to vocal performance.

“I thought I’d be an opera singer. Nope,” she said.

She earned a degree from Alabama State in interdisciplinary studies, which incorporated music, theater, education and business.

She auditioned at a conference in Kentucky and MCT called her back for an interview.

“They were the ones I wanted the most,” she said.

Tyler was born in Manhattan, Kansas, and later lived in Kentucky and Alabama. She earned a bachelor’s in science from Kansas State University — but took a wide variety of classes on the way to her degree.

“I can tell you all about the weather,” she said, rattling off the myriad meteorological classes she completed.

Her path to MCT was a bit different.

“I needed a job. I was really desperate,” she said. “I kept Googling interesting places and looked up theaters in the states.”

She landed on MCT’s website, and clicked on the tab for tour directors.

“I like travel, I like kids, I like theater,” she said.

Tyler and Ellis both started work in late May on a year-long contract. Baker City is their ninth week on the road bringing theater to small towns across the West.

“Every week, every day,” Tyler said.

They audition kids on Monday, rehearse all week, then help the youth present two performances.

“You really put your all in it,” Ellis said. “This is their chance — you have to give 100%.”

Both have seen kids blossom and gain confidence from Monday to Friday.

“Some kids don’t believe in themselves,” Tyler said. “It’s really cool to watch them rock it.”

How it happens

Crossroads brings MCT to Baker City through donations, sponsorships, and class registration. Admission fees also help.

“We hear from so many people that they have never come to a show because it’s just a ‘kiddie show,’ ” Savage said. “I have always encouraged those folks to attend. Missoula Children’s Theatres are universally lovely shows with great music.”

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