National theatre group makes first trip to Springfield, Legend Theater

The Missoula Children’s Theatre made their first trip to Springfield last week for a weeklong camp at The John Legend Theater.

Fifty-five kids from various school districts in Clark County auditioned for the selected show last Monday and performed twice on Friday. All of the lines, songs and dances were learned in just a week. The musical was The Secret Garden.

“It’s a good experience to have. It’s good for confidence, and it’s also really fun,” said Annalise Smith, a Simon Kenton student who played one of the main roles, Mary Lennox in the play.

The children’s theatre is based out of Montana, but travels to all 50 states and 17 foreign countries to put on camps.

“We’re very happy to be here,” said Erica Dederich, Director of Missoula Children’s Theatre. “We don’t always get big theaters like this, sometimes I’ve performed on gym floors a lot.”

This marks the first school year that the John Legend Theater has been in use by the community.

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Theater manager Terry McGonigle previously said there were more than 120 events held at the theater just in the 2017-2018 school year.

Although Smith isn’t new to acting, last week was her first time performing at the John Legend Theater.

“It’s really cool to have the opportunity to perform in here,” she said.

Dederich said having a state-of-the-art theater only adds to the kids’ learning experience.

“We get to practice more of being back stage and seeing the stage lights out there,” she said. “They learn a little bit more about the actual theater.”

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Kids who participated in the camp came from all experience levels — newcomers to veterans.

“At the end of the day, if they’re louder and more confident than they were on Monday — goal’s accomplished,” Dederich said.

There were also STEM-related activities at the camp for kids who were interested in lighting, acoustics and other behind-the-scenes facets.

“It shows they don’t have to be the main character to enjoy stage and shows,” said Rene Stratton, Career ConnectED program coordinator.

The program at the theater was funded by the Springfield Foundation and the Springfield City School District.

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