TWIN FALLS — Auditions meant missing trick-or-treating for candy Monday night, but Caily Cox didn’t want to be anywhere else.
Caily, 11, was one of 56 children who auditioned for a role in Missoula Children’s Theatre’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at the Twin Falls Center for the Arts.
It had been a few years since Caily auditioned for the traveling children’s theater based out of Missoula, Mont. This is the 17th year the group has come to Twin Falls. Each week the two traveling directors go from town to town across the U.S. to produce a show and hold workshops at schools. This year, Abby Kohake and Jay Echols are the show’s directors.
“Alice in Wonderland” will show at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday at O’Leary Middle School Auditorium. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children. Tickets may be purchased at the Magic Valley Arts Council box office or at the door.
A few years ago, Caily was cast in “Blackbeard the Pirate.” She didn’t have her heart set on a particular role Monday, she just hoped for a part in the play.
Caily’s mother, Nancy Cox, sat next to her as other children started to arrive and fill up the seats around the room. Some children showed up in costume. One boy was dressed as a doctor and a girl looked like Cleopatra.
“It’s a quality production,” Cox said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for those with talents of all ages.”
On the other side of the room, Brooklyn Allen, 7, sat near her mother, Michelle Allen.
It was Brooklyn’s first time auditioning for anything, and she wasn’t nervous.
“I’m happy,” she said.
Allen said Brooklyn was the one who noticed the announcement at school and reminded her of the auditions Monday night.
“She’s very dramatic about everything,” Allen said. “She’s the one who likes getting in front of people.”
It was time to get to business when Kohake and Echols entered the room. They asked the group to gather in front of them for directions and then silently arrange themselves in a square from tallest to shortest. The two of them are new to Missoula Children’s Theatre and recent college graduates.
As the children started to form a square, their quiet voices started to grow louder.
“There is a difference between silently and quietly,” Echols said.
When it comes to casting, Echols said, they look for three things —loud and clear voices, expressive bodies and faces and the ability to listen and follow directions.
The children were asked one by one to say their first and last name, and their age.
Then they were asked to say it like they were excited.
“It is more exciting than a trip to Disneyland,” Echols said to the group. “It’s more exciting than any birthday present, than Halloween, and all the candy on the planet.”
When it was Caily’s turn, she exclaimed her name and age, as she held her hands to her face. Mia Tripp, 5, was the last one in line to introduce herself. She shouted her name and age, while jumping into the air.
Then the children performed lines from the play.
In their angriest voice, they said: “What you looking at girl?”
In their most excited voice, they repeated: “In the morning, I’m making waffles.”
This year, all 56 children were cast in the play. Echols will play the white rabbit.
“Everyone was really well behaved,” Kohake said. “They all took direction really well.”
In addition to the two Saturday shows, Echols and Kohake held nine community workshops at local schools including Xavier Charter School and O’Leary Middle School. On Tuesday afternoon, Kohake and Echols were on their way to an elementary school in Jerome to hold an assembly for the entire school. Carolyn White, executive director of the Magic Valley Arts Council, said they send out workshop information to local schools before Missoula Children’s Theatre comes to town. There are also workshops available for teachers that teach team building and how to help children pay attention better.
“We really try to take this opportunity to reach as many children as possible,” White said. “It’s a fabulous opportunity for the kids to participate in theater.”
Audiences may notice that Missoula Children’s Theatre version of “Alice in Wonderland” is a little different than the movie and book. For example, there is a cast of dozen lobsters played by the 5- and 6-year old cast members.
“I like that the story is different,” Echols said. “It gives the kids ownership. It’s not Disney’s, it’s our ‘Alice in Wonderland’. It’s really impressive what these kids learn and do in a week.”