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June 2012
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'Treasure Island' produces confident young performers

BY KATIE PAXTON kpaxton@paducahsun.com

The talents of local youth were showcased at the Four Rivers Carson Center Friday with two public performances of "Treasure Island," which was directed and produced by the Missoula Children's Theatre traveling company.

Based in Missoula, Mont., the Missoula Children's Theatre (MCT) company has been traveling the globe for 39 years, teaching children developmental life skills through the art of theatre.

"The main focus is life skills like communication, teamwork, public speaking, patience, seeing through a project until it's finished," said Christ Chamblee, an actor from MCT and director of Paducah's "Treasure Island." "These are all skills that can be used in a career even if it's not theatre, but it presents them in a fun way."

The company tours annually to all 50 states and 17 countries, including Canada, Germany and Japan. With a total of 92 touring directors and actors, teams of two professionals travel to various theaters with a truck full of props, costumes, make-up and scenery to teach kids the basis of acting, singing, dancing and performing.

"The program is really show based, but we made it like a camp," said Mary Katz, the director of education at the Carson Center.

In its seventh year at the Carson Center, the camp begins with a two-hour group audition and culminates in two public performances. Every child who participates in the audition receives a role in the production. If one would rather work behind the scenes, he or she can ask to be an assistant director and learn how to use lights, props and other technical processes that happen backstage.

This year, 62 children in grades 1-12 from Kentucky, Illinois, Ohio and Tennessee were cast immediately following the audition and immersed themselves in a week full of learning lines, songs and choreography for a full-length musical.

"Depending on how they're casted, some won't have to rehearse all week," said Katz. "So we have little theatre classes for those who aren't rehearsing. There's dance, acting, music and even a scavenger hunt of things in the theater, like finding the box office, what an usher is, and touring backstage."

Kelly Walker, 10, of Calvert City enjoyed his third year in the camp.

"You would think because they're traveling, the actors would be really serious, but they actually joke it out to get you to understand what they want you to do," he said.

River Stilley, 7, of Paducah said he decided to do the camp because he "always wanted to be on the Carson Center stage."

With hours of rehearsal and workshops together, Chamblee noticed many friendships and rises in self-esteem from the program.

"It's fun to watch and see the growth," he said. "They have so much confidence by the end of the week. Whether it's their first show or their 20th, we make them better (performers). I love watching them build friendships with kids in the area. Sixty-two kids who probably didn't know each other at all are friends in just four days."

The participants celebrated their hard work with a "Pirate Punch Party" before the performances Friday afternoon.

"There are pirate themed snacks, games and 'blood punch' to get them excited about what they experienced in theatre," said Katz.

All proceeds from the ticket sales of the two "Treasure Island" performances go toward future programs at the Carson Center.

"We want to be able to put money back in the community so that the Carson Center can keep putting on shows and programs like this," said Chamblee.

Contact Katie Paxton, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8655.

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