ESCANABA - In just a couple days, the little red truck of the Missoula Children's Theatre group will make its return to Escanaba.
This year, two directors from the nationally recognized Missoula Children's Theatre group from Montana will make the trek, searching for local youth to participate in a play which will be performed at the William Bonifas Fine Arts Center following an intensive week-long rehearsal.
"These young directors are usually just out of college or in college as theatre majors," explained Mollie Larsen, executive director of the William Bonifas Fine Arts Center. "They drive up in a little red truck and in that little red truck they have all of the costumes, all of the scenery, all of the props that they would possibly need."
Children from first through 12th grade are invited to audition for a role in this year's production of the play, "The Secret Garden," at 10 a.m. on Monday, June 17.
"The auditions are very non-threatening and very friendly," said Larsen. "They don't have to get up and sing and dance or recite anything. It's very unintimidating so even the kid who is shy has a place on the stage."
She estimates 90 students typically audition for a part, with the cast finalized Monday afternoon. There are also spots for students who want to get involved with handling props, lighting, or technical aspects of the show or in helping out backstage.
The remainder of the week is spent on putting the production together where the students learn their parts, music, and any dancing they have to do.
At the end of the week, they perform two shows on Saturday, June 22, at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
"It's a really intensive, one-week long summer camp," said Larsen. "We are very lucky that Players de Noc writes a grant to CUPPAD (Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Regional Commission) and that grant helps to pay for the directors and Missoula."
The week-long event is free to all participating students. Students who do not get into the production are invited to attend theater workshops presented free of charge by Missoula Theatre staff Tuesday through Thursday at 3 p.m. at the Bonifas.
Larsen said this is approximately the 15th year Missoula Children's Theatre has come to the area.
She said performing arts is an important component to fine arts, and if fostered at an early age, can get kids more interested and involved in theatre at the high school and college levels, and eventually as a part of the local Players de Noc group.
"I think that it's an incredible opportunity that we have the funding and we have this facility to offer a free week-long performing arts summer camp that most communities who get Missoula, they charge for it," said Larsen. "But it's something that we want to do as a part of our development of community. We're not so much an arts center as we really are a community center."
Tickets to the Saturday performance of "The Secret Garden" are $7, with children ages five and under free. For tickets or more information, contact the Bonifas Fine Arts Center at (906) 786-3833 or visit www.bonifasarts.org.