Fairy tale gets spirited twist

Missoula troupe performs Saturday

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

Register/Richard Luken
Rehearsing a scene from the Missoula Children’s Theatre production of “The Princess And The Pea” are, front from left, Tarah Stockebrand, Reece Kimball, Kassy Shelby and Madi Carlin; second row from left, Megan Smith, Kobe Forsyth, Maggie Terhune, Danielle Harman and Elise Wolf; and third row from left, Chelsea Lea, Maggie Wilson, Hallie Wolf, Andrew Kipp, Courtney Smith and Trilby Bannister.
Portraying dust bunnies in “The Princess And The Pea” are, from left, Jack Adams, Hailey Carlin, Mia Aronson, Eason Cheung and Lauren McDermot.

The task before Jeffery Staso and Lynda Mondragon this week is simple, if not a little daunting.
Their charge is to mold 55 local youngsters — some of whom who have never performed on stage before — into a cohesive acting troupe by Saturday.
They wouldn’t want it any other way.
Staso and Mondragon, instructors with the Missoula Children’s Theatre, are directing local youths 6-18 through a week of rehearsals before Saturday’s performance of “The Princess and the Pea.”

THE MCT rendition of “The Princess and The Pea” varies from the traditional fairy tale, with leprechauns, dust bunnies and even Jack Frost in tow. There are plenty of song-and-dance numbers to entertain the crowd.
Beginning with rigorous auditions on Monday, Staso and Mondragon have just 20 hours — four hours a day — to work with the students.
“Fortunately, we have an outstanding cast to work with,” Mondragon said. “The kids are motivated and they want to be here, which makes our jobs exciting and fun. And it makes the week fly by.”
“The students are very well-behaved, which makes it easy,” Staso added.
Staso and Mondragon are in the midst of a 10-week summer touring season which has taken them across New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and now Kansas. They move on to Nebraska next week.
From there, Staso and Mondragon will get a two-week reprieve before commencing on a 12-week fall tour through the Pacific Northwest.
“Every week has its challenges,” Staso said. “But even then, things you might think are horrible now usually wind up being funny when you remember them three weeks later.”

LIVING out of hotel rooms and their truck filled with items essential to each week’s performance — costumes, scripts, lighting, props and scenery — likely would otherwise take its toll on each instructor were it not for one crucial element.
Mondragon and Staso are married.
The pair both grew up in central California and met while part of their high school drama program.
Mondragon continued her pursuit of a career in theater, while Staso sought a more traditional career.
“But it really wasn’t fulfilling,” said Staso, who with his wife became MCT instructors two years ago.
Since then, they sold their car, let their apartment lease expire “and gave up pretty much every other local tie we had,” Mondragon said.
“I couldn’t imagine doing this with anybody else,” Staso said.
“We’ve gotten used to not having a kitchen,” Staso said. “If we can find a microwave and a refrigerator at each stop then we can survive.”

THE CURTAIN rises for the Daniels bequest performance at 3 p.m. at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center. Suggest admission is $5 per person.
In addition to the play, the Bowlus will spotlight the fruits of its summer youth programs, with band, choir, world drumming and art shows. Those activities begin at 2 o’clock and are sponsored by the Sleeper Family Trust.