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Children’s theater returning for adventures of Robinson Crusoe

The Missoula Children’s Theater, a non-profit theatricalorganization based in Missoula, Mont., will return to BrookhavenMonday to kick off a week’s worth of activities for this year’splay, “The Amazing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.”

Auditions, which are open to any student in the area in gradeskindergarten through 12, will begin at 3:30 p.m. Monday in theLipsey School gymnasium.

Throughout the rest of the week, practices will be held nightlyfrom 3:30 p.m. until 7:45 p.m. in the Brookhaven High Schoolauditorium. At the end of the week, on Saturday, Jan. 19, the showwill go on – twice, once at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Missoula’s past visits to the Brookhaven area have seen as manyas 150 students show up for the auditions, of which 50 to 60 willbe selected for parts in the play. After the cast has been named,the rehearsals and performance of the play will be lead by twoMissoula representatives called TADs (tour actor/directors). Thisyear’s TADs, husband and wife team L. Chad and Stephanie Simmons,bring everything necessary for the show to be produced – set props,flood lights, adjustable costumes and make-up.

Brookhaven Arts Council Publicity Chairwoman Katheryn Bumgarnerappreciates TADs not only for their theatrical expertise, but fortheir command and control capabilities.

“It’s amazing – they can control over 60 children at a time,”she said.

The ability to work the children into performance readiness inonly a few days may stem from Brookhaven’s tradition ofparticipation in the performing arts, with the Arts Councilbringing such performers as Jackson’s New Stage Theater and theNatchez Opera Company into town, as well as the city’s ownBrookhaven Little Theatre.

“The children who audition every year are so enthusiastic,”Bumgarner said. “Out of the 150 or so children who show up toaudition, it’s amazing that they can put on two full productions inonly one week’s time.”

The Missoula TADs will be busy throughout the day as well.Saturday’s play is not their only duty during the Brookhaven visit.The Simmonses will present three enrichment workshops at areaschools during the week, focusing on Missoula’s mission ofdeveloping life skills in children through participation in thearts.

“Missoula’s visit to Brookhaven gives all the students involveda broader view of the arts,” Bumgarner said. “It’s a chance forsome children who never get to get out of Brookhaven, never get tosee a show up in Jackson, a chance to experience and be a part ofthe arts.”

The Missoula Children’s Theater, the nation’s largest touringtheater, has been on the road for 34 years. Its representatives arescheduled to appear in 1,200 communities in 2008, and they haveperformed as far away before as Japan.

During these tours, Missoula estimates that as many as 60,000children will take the stage as part of their performances. With60,000 children on board, that means that maybe 100,000 may not beable to participate. Missoula stresses that there is no guaranteethat every child who auditions will be cast in the play.

However, not all children who participate with Missoula need beperformers. The TADs will select four to six assistant directors,from ages 10 and up, to help them teach, direct and providetechnical assistance during the rehearsals and production of theplay.