By Ashley Lodato
I had a couple of share-worthy moments at the public elementary school last week. First, I took second-grader Marit Nelson (who was functioning as my highly capable ad hoc assistant for Missoula Children’s Theater for the day) into the teacher’s lounge to help me with some administrative tasks. As we entered the darkened inner sanctum, which boasts soothing features such as a laminator and a clacking photocopier, Marit whispered almost reverentially, “I’ve never been in this room before.”
And in the moment after the motion-sensor fluorescent lights kicked on she added, “I thought there was a hot tub or something back here.” Right — because that’s the typical public school teacher schedule: reading, writing, and a quick dip in the hot tub with some colleagues before capping the day with a little ’rithmetic.
The other moment was more poignant, and occurred as the cast of Aladdin went through a “fun run” of the play, which involved running the play with normal blocking and lines, but with revolving thematic changes. As the students moved through each scene, the Missoula Children’s Theater directors would shout out a different theme every three minutes or so, and the young actors would need to perform within that theme. So they were zombies, rock stars, Brits, and runway models.
As you might expect, the cast did a great job with the cowboy theme, but I found the enactment of the hippie theme sadly lacking. Apparently most of these kids believe that hippies are more or less Beverly Hillbillies, or just people with southern accents in general. We clearly have failed them in providing historical context for the 1960s!
My poignant moment occurred during this fun run of the play, watching the students who were not on stage. As they sat in front of their fellow actors witnessing them run their lines in slow motion, or as robots or chipmunks, they were rolling on the floor and howling with laughter. Kids on and off stage alike were just delighting in the silliness of the activity overlaid with the pre-performance adrenaline that comes with any theatrical production. It was little kids, tweens, and teenagers; private schoolers, public schoolers, and home schoolers; boys and girls; different family environments; different religions; different values — all sharing the delight and magic that comes from working toward a shared goal. They were wholly united in the joy of the moment, and so, vicariously, was I.
In case you’ve been wondering who are the mystery elves who have been working so hard to keep the Washington Pass area ski-able, it’s Scott Johnston, Alan Watson, Dave Ford, and probably some others that I’m not aware of (Scott Waichler?) using Rob Seckinger’s grooming equipment. If you’ve already been out on the trails, now you know who to thank.