A call recently went out from the School District 72 offices for an upcoming audition.
It’s an annual call, according to Lorill Vining, who organizes the cultural events for the school district. She took over the portfolio a few years ago from the now-retired Steve Koebel.
“About three times a year, we get an outside group who comes and performs for the schools, and this is one of those,” she says, as if it’s that simple.
But simple it is not.
For this particular performance, two directors from the Missoula Children’s Theatre in Montana come to town, and over the course of just one week, turn somewhere between 50 and 60 children from our community into actors and put on a performance of their original play, Peter and Wendy.
“They come with everything in their little red truck that they will need to put on about a one hour musical,” Vining says. “It’s actually almost like a miracle to watch it come together.”
So next Monday (Jan. 28), at 3:25, the gym of Ripple Rock Elementary will fill with students who want to go to Neverland, and the directors will cast each role in the play over about a two hour period.
When that is done, they will immediately start rehearsals.
“They generally break into two rooms – one in the gym and one in a multi-purpose room or something – and they give every student a binder with their part in it and immediately start teaching the kids the songs and their lines right on that very first night.”
And then they will rehearse for about 4.5 hours every day after school between then and Saturday, so it’s not a small commitment.
“Whatever else they’ve got going on for that week basically has to get cancelled so they can do this,” Vining says. “They really have to commit for this one week, because there’s not enough time to do it any other way.”
Rehearsals take place at Ripple Rock on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. before moving to the theatre at Timberline on the Friday. At 9 a.m. on Saturday they run through a dress rehearsal, followed later that day by a 3 p.m. performance that afternoon and a 7 p.m. performance that night.
While it’s certainly a huge commitment from the kids – and their caregivers – Vining says it’s obvious to her they enjoy it.
“I’d say most of the kids who have done it come back to try out again the next year, so it’s obviously pretty rewarding and a fun thing for them to be a part of, or I don’t think we’d see that happening,” she says with a chuckle.
There are 340 tickets available for the Saturday performances – 170 for each show – but those in the play get first dibs on them before they are available to the public.
“I give the kids an order form on the Monday for them to take home so they can tell me how many they’re going to need – quite often a family will want six tickets if there’s a mom, dad, grandpa, grandma and a couple of siblings or whatever,” Vining says. “So with about 60 kids, 340 tickets doesn’t go really far, but so far I haven’t had to turn anybody away and all the families have pretty much gotten all the tickets they wanted for each show.”
For more information about the performances, rehearsal process or for tickets – available to the public for $10 each once those cast in the show tell her how many they’ll need – contact Vining at Ripple Rock Elementary at 250-850-2035 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
She will also have a few tickets available at each performance on Jan. 28, but, if previous years are anything to go by, if you wait for those lat minute tickets, you might end up standing in the back of the theatre.