By Roger Dey
Blackfoot Valley Dispatch 

MCT brings 'Gulliver's Travels' and a unique student experience to Lincoln

 

Roger Dey

Gulliver, played by Jasmine Melton, and the (not so) Invisible Force, played by MCT's Joshua Wood, question the Robots of Lapunta. Melton and Andrea Weisner switched off playing Gulliver as scenes moved from planet to planet.

The Missoula Children's Theater returned to Lincoln School last week with their take on the Jonathan Swift classic "Gulliver's Travels," and the play drew a record number of students interested in taking part.

Sixty-one students, ranging from kindergartners to high school juniors, tried out for roles that re-imagined Gulliver as an explorer lost in space and encountering various cultures divided by education, color or size, all while traveling between planets using a transporter controlled by a mad scientist.

"This year we had the best turnout I've ever had, since I've been doing POUNCE," said Lincoln POUNCE Director Jackie Grantier.

Grantier said POUNCE partners with the Lincoln PTSA to cover the cost of bringing the MCT plays to Lincoln every other year.


"We used to do it every year but the kids seemed to lose interest in doing it," she said. "Every other year gives them something to look forward to."

"I love it," said Sophomore Sage Kamps, who has been a regular performer in MCT productions in Lincoln. "I think it's a great opportunity for kids, because we don't have a theater program here."

Kamps, who plays one of the intelligent and haughty Houyhnhnm horses in Gulliver's Travels, believes the plays are good for students because they need to be responsible for learning their lines and performing them on stage.

"You just get a little bit of a different thing," she said. "You don't get to act in any other classes, so...it's kind of nice to be able to do something like that, like theater."

Unlike Kamps, Freshman Savannah Hurst was new to the MCT experience. Hurst, who's been in Lincoln for about two years, played Gulliver's computer assistant, JCN. She said it's her first role in a play since she played a rainbow in first grade and called the experience both amazing and a big learning experience for everyone.

"I think here in Lincoln the kids are really great with learning their lines. Me and my friends especially like helping the little kids and we just genuinely enjoy this," she said. "My friend, she joined and wasn't sure she wanted to, but ... now she loves it and I love it. We're just really enjoying it."

For some of the students, the experience helped them develop abilities beyond the performance.

"We've got kids who are in the position of assistant director, so they're learning leadership, and with MCT their stories always have a good moral."

In this year's case, the moral is two-fold: it's OK to be different, and "school is cool."

Joshua Wood, half of the two-person team who brought the production to town and worked with the kids all week, agreed.

"Just from being involved in a play, I think they gain self-confidence and the ability to know they can do something," he said. Also, they feel like people believe in them and that they're worth it, so I think that's good. Also, I think the play itself teaches a lot of cool lessons about acceptance and about giving people a chance and helping people."

"It's really fun," said Christopher Martin, who directed the play during the visit to Lincoln." I remember when I first started; it's a little difficult to learn because its transporting back and forth between planets, but I had the first week with kids and they enjoyed it a lot more that other shows, I think. It's cool. (It's) space."

Wood and Martin travel to a new town each week, arriving on Sunday, meeting the kids on Monday and practicing with them all week.

Grantier marveled not only at the pair's patience, since they must start with a free slate and teach a new bunch of kids every week, but also at how the kids here have reacted to the intensive week of theater.

"They've all really grown," she said. "I can't believe how much change there has been from Monday, when you have to feed them their lines and teach them their songs."

"To put on a show in one week, it takes a lot of work," Wood said. "They really want to be here and they really want to do it, so they do that hard work and it teaches them self-discipline."

Roger Dey

A blue alien of Blefescu reacts to a green alien of Lilliput. The two groups of aliens highlighted the concept that color shouldn't get in the way of getting along.

 

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