The Missoula Children’s Theater is back in town for the first time in almost two years, and the budding young actors of Baker County will bring the community “Johnny Appleseed” this Friday, July 9, and Saturday, July 10 at the Baker High School auditorium.
Missoula Children’s Theater (MCT) travels across the nation and internationally each year, with two-person teams of actors/directors working with local youth from kindergarten through 12th grade, in just five days, to put on performances for their communities.
MCT, which had visited Baker City each summer since 2009, had to cancel the 2020 events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But this year there will be two performances in Baker City — “Johnny Appleseed” this weekend, and “The Emperor’s New Clothes” on July 30 and July 31.
Masks are part of the costumes this year, as MCT is requiring face coverings for every play, regardless of state guidelines.
Directors Teegan Schriock and Megan Schmidt, who are overseeing “Johnny Appleseed” in Baker City, said the local actors have been their most cooperative group in the Pacific Northwest so far with masks, and they have had no problems keeping the face coverings on at all times.
Both Schriock and Schmidt recently graduated from college with theater degrees. Graduating during a pandemic is not easy for anyone, but especially for those in the arts. They both said they feel lucky to have gotten this job, traveling around the country for an entire year and directing one play at a time.
“It just makes me feel so whole,” said Schriock, who graduated from Idaho State University. “The kids love it, especially since there aren’t many art opportunities in a lot of the communities we go to. So it’s really amazing that we get to bring art to them, and for a week they can forget about everything else and just come here and put on a play.”
Schmidt graduated from Ithaca College in New York last spring.
When she and Schriock aren’t directing scenes for the play, they’re leading fun theater games for the kids and teaching them songs and dances.
This year’s Baker City cast is 18 students, which is fewer than most years because it coincides with the Baker School District’s Summer Academy. Every student who auditioned got a role, and by day two, most of them were rehearsing their lines without help from the script.
Addie Voss, education coordinator for Crossroads Carnegie Art Center, which helps coordinate MCT performances, said it’s all about providing a fun experience for the kids. The rehearsal process runs like a well-oiled machine, with qualified and enthusiastic directors keeping the kids focused and prepared for the weekend performance.
“You can tell that they’ve done this enough that they’ve worked out all the kinks,” Voss said.
Performances are at 6 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday at Baker High School, and everyone is welcome to attend. Tickets are $5 for adults and children can attend for free with the purchase of an adult ticket.