TWIN FALLS • Professional actors Scott McGee and Joe Godburn live their lives out of suitcases.
The pair of tour directors have done show after show for the Missoula Children’s Theatre, touted as the largest touring children’s theater in the nation, if not the world. Each week they produce a show — often in small towns where the young cast members have little or no experience in drama.
It can be hectic and stressful.
“There’s no down time,” McGee said. Auditions are Monday, and through a series of “stair steps,” the show comes together, ready to be performed to an audience by Saturday. Sunday is travel day, as the pair heads to their next destination, where McGee and Godburn go through the process all over again.
This week the duo is in Twin Falls, getting more than 60 children ready to perform two shows of “Sleeping Beauty” at O’Leary Middle School.
McGee and Godburn are veterans of the group. McGee has been with the theater program off and on since 1994; Godburn since 2008, with some breaks in between. The two keep coming back, though. Between them, they have taken part in more than 600 shows.
“I enjoy the mission of Missoula,” Godburn explained. All the inconvenience is overcome by the experience working with children, helping them put together a performance in a week.
It goes beyond theater. It’s helping the children learn lessons which can help them later in life.
“We are teaching life skills through theater,” McGee said. Children learn to express themselves and gain confidence, and the change is easy to see in some children, said Carolyn White, executive director of the Magic Valley Arts Council.
In a departure from the original fairy tale, this production has Sleeping Beauty wake to find herself in a rock’n’roll dream.
McGee and Godburn say they are confident cast members, who range from 5-16 years old, will be prepared to put on a pair entertaining shows on Saturday. While many of the cast members have previously performed with the children’s theater (Rapunzel was performed last year in Twin Falls) or participated in other performing arts groups in the area, other cast members don’t have acting experience. And that’s OK. All that’s required is a smile, enthusiasm and the ability to dedicate one full week to the production.
Halle Huber, an eighth grader at Xavier Charter School, plays the lead role of an older Sleeping Beauty. “It’s been a lot of fun,” she said. She has the experience of working with sister Ashley, who by coincidence was cast as the younger Sleeping Beauty. She said the audience will be entertained with the twists in the play.
Not all children will take the stage. Four children are given the task of being assistant directors, and Julianna Schneider said, being in charge of lights and making sure things run smoothly backstage is an important job.
While play preparation is going well in Twin Falls, it doesn’t always go that way in the smaller towns McGee and Godburn visit.
Sometimes the show looks like a disaster during rehearsals early in the week. “It looks like the show isn’t going to happen,” McGee said. Then almost as if some “Missoula Magic” is sprinkled on the cast, and lines are learned and the children gain more of the play’s understanding almost overnight. “It’s almost like a switch goes on inside them,” Godburn said.
The formula for putting together is setting day-to-day goals that are in each child’s reach. The first day is all about blocking, teaching the cast members “how to get from point A to point B,” McGee said. Progress is made each day, with rehearsals from 4-8 p.m., until the “payday” on Saturday, McGee said.
There are always backup plans in place, whether children cast in lead roles or tour directors become ill on performance day.
And don’t worry about the touring directors getting bored with the same show. “It’s always different,” Godburn said, because of the different personalities and ages of the cast members week to week.
In the production, McGee will be the jester who will remain on stage, if only for moral support. Or, he will assist cast members in case they forget lines.
White hopes that it’s more than just parents who are in the audience on Saturday. “It’s a chance to see young kids see good theater,” she said.