The Missoula Children’s Theatre returned to Battle Mountain with a play called “Wiz of the West.” Local kids participated in the musical performance, working all week to memorize lines and choreography for the play. The performance followed the story of the classic tale of “The Wizard of Oz,” with a western twist. The play was staged on Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Battle Mountain Civic Center.
The Missoula Children’s Theatre was started 46 years ago. It has since expanded into an international touring company, which has taught life skills to well over a million kids. In the past year, Missoula kids performed in over 1,200 communities in all 50 states, in addition to 17 different countries.
Elementary school teacher Jonie Davenport explained, “It has been a long history in Battle Mountain. A lot of the people in there participated in the play when they were students in school. They have been here over 30 years now, and with financial help from Lander County Schools, Newmont Mining, Premier Gold and the fundraisers’ sale of candy bars helped bring the show back every year.”
Davenport continued, “The total cost of this is almost $5,000 a year. It cost about $3,700 to bring the Missoula actors in. They bring the stage, the props and everything with them. We also are required to cover their hotel and in the end, the cost comes to around $4,700.”
The play opened for tryouts on Monday, Oct. 16, and casting was announced the same night. Over 50 kids tried out for parts in the play. There were students aged from kindergarten to the seniors in high school. The kids then practiced for a week straight to learn their lines and perform twice publicly the following Saturday evening.
The performance entertained
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viewers with catchy songs and witty lines from the actors. In the lead role of Dotty was Jillian Bisiaux with her companion Mooch, played by Divine Jacobson. The two were lost and needed to find the Dr. Ozzy (performed by Addison Payzant) to learn a life lesson. On their way, Dotty meets new friends in the Scared Crow (Aubrie Schmidt), the Tinhorn (Michael Ingraham), and the Lionel (Triston Price). Each wanted Dr. Ozzy to fix a problem for them.
The play also featured a character called Hawknose Halley, played by Sarah Markel. Hawknose Halley tries to stop Dotty and her friends from reaching the Wiz of the West. In the end, Halley is defeated when Tinhorn removes her fake nose and reveals her true nature. The performance received a standing ovation from parents and friends. The clear favorites of the night were the youngsters playing tarantulas.
The play was directed by Mariah Karis and Cody Schmitt with the help of assistant directors Emilee Henning and Caylin Meyer. Schmitt, who also played in the role of Cyclone Sam, stated, “We really couldn’t have done this without all of the support, and if these kids can do all this in just a week, just imagine what they can do with the rest of their life.”
The play ended with a photo shoot for the parents and family members to commemorate some lifelong memories of their children participating in the show. Davenport plans to bring the Missoula back to Battle Mountain on an annual basis.