It was the summer of 1970. Jim Caron, unemployed and searching for a mission in life, was on his way from Chicago to a friend's wedding in Oregon when his aging Volkswagen van broke down. The nearest service station was—fortunately and fatefully—in Missoula, Mont. While waiting for the van to be patched together, Jim noticed an audition poster for Man of La Mancha. Just for fun, he auditioned and was cast in the role of Sancho. An instant and lasting friendship was developed with Don Collins, the actor playing Don Quixote. Along with Don, MCT's current senior development office, Jim organized a company of adults who did plays for children on a make-shift stage in a local movie theatre. The plays—as well as the idea of developing live theatre for kids—were well received in Missoula, and soon nearby Montana and Idaho communities requested performances of their own.
During this time period (the early ’70s) the company began to use kids as cast members when it seemed appropriate—Hansel and Gretel, the Dwarfs in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, etc. In 1972, when February performances of Snow White were booked into Miles City, a small Montana community located an icy 500 miles from Missoula, Jim and the other directors were not excited about the responsibility of traveling with seven children across the state, so they decided to take a radical step; they would attempt to cast the dwarfs from children in Miles City. The directors traveled across the state a week before the rest of the company, a bit skeptical about finding seven kids who might be interested in being in the play. When 450 children arrived at the tryout, the astonished team auditioned the huge group and cast the seven roles. The success of that week—obvious major interest among kids, parents, teachers, and even the press as well as an excellent production and sold out audiences—opened the eyes of the MCT staff and opened the doors to the MCT future.
The lessons learned in those early days, especially the rewards of involving children as cast members, set the stage for today's International Tour, MCT's Performing Arts Camps a strong local children's season, the acclaimed MCT Community Theatre, and the magnificent home base facility which opened its doors in 1998. As for the future, MCT continues to reach for the stars.
*This information is from the Missoula Children’s Theatre website. For additional information, visit their website.