No cast, no problem for Missoula Children’s Theatre

Missoula Children’s Theatre performed “The Wizard of Oz” on Friday at Jesse Auditorium.
Actresses Emily Thomas and Julia Arthur, playing Dorothy and Toto, anticipate the entrance of munchkins Friday in Jesse Auditorium. Missoula Children's Theatre performed its rendition of "The Wizard of Oz" on Friday.

Theater directors Bethany Hystad and Jami Windham drive a red truck around the country. It’s filled with everything needed to produce the musical “The Wizard of Oz” — except a cast.

The duo arrived March 6 in Columbia with costumes, backdrops and props and began casting for the Friday night show in Jesse Auditorium.

Windham and Hystad began touring with the Missoula Children’s Theatre last year. This was their first time performing in the state of Missouri, Windham said. The directors go to any location asked of them, as long as the director’s housing and a location for the play are provided.

The stage set consisted of a large, bursting rainbow and pictures alternating from images of Dorothy’s home, the Yellow Brick Road and a talking image of the Wizard of Oz.

The play was cast with 60 participants, rehearsed and performed in five days, Hystad said.

“We actually had to perform quicker than expected, but we ended up having fun and letting the children run free with their roles,” Hystad said. “The kids were very energetic and ready to perform, even with less than 20 hours of rehearsal, which was admirable.”

Missoula Children’s Theatre tour gives Windham an opportunity to work with children and the theater, something she has wanted to do since she was young.

“I thought to myself that this was a great opportunity to continue working and doing something I loved, which is acting and directing,” Windham said. “Helping children find their creative sides at such a young age is a perk as well, because it allows me to make a difference for the children.”

The theater experience is a way to prepare children for their futures, Windham said.

“This production is a good growing exercise for the children, because it gives them the skills necessary to be productive members of society and become more creative as they mature,” Windham said.

Acting in “The Wizard of Oz” was a unique opportunity for the children of Columbia, Windham said.

“This was another opportunity for the children to express themselves, especially in a smaller town, like this one, where you cannot express yourself at such an early age,” Windham said.

Sixteen-year-old Emily Thomas, who played the role of Dorothy, said the experience was a positive one.

“This experience will inspire kids to be upbeat and to get to know people very quickly,” Thomas said. “It helped me when I was younger and should help the kids to find their voices as well.”

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