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TWIN FALLS — Three Bickel Elementary School students played the role of monkeys as actor Ryan Pierce delivered his lines.

“Those monkeys have stolen my hat,” the Missoula Children’s Theatre touring actor/director said. “You monkeys will be very sorry.”

A couple hundred students watched the performance-style workshop Wednesday in the school gymnasium, laughing and mimicking Pierce’s hand motions.

After a few run-throughs, Julia Bourland — another touring actor/director — instructed Pierce: “Make it more dramatic.” He dropped to his knees as he acted.

Thanks to a grant the Magic Valley Arts Council received, eight schools with a high poverty rate are receiving a free performance-style workshop — “So You Want to be in Show Business?” — this week by Missoula Children’s Theatre.

Schools include Bickel and Harrison elementary schools in Twin Falls, Jefferson and Summit elementary schools in Jerome, Wendell Elementary School, Gooding Elementary School, and Filer Elementary and Intermediate schools.

Missoula Children’s Theatre is in Twin Falls this week leading a production of “Aladdin.” There’s a cast of 60 local children — ranging from 5 to 17 years old — and two performances are slated for Saturday.

The Missoula, Mont., traveling children’s theater group travels across the country to produce a show with a local cast in just one week and hold school workshops.

There’s typically a fee for the workshops, but the Magic Valley Arts Council received a $2,000 grant from the Whittenberger Foundation — a Caldwell-based foundation that gives grants to projects improving the quality of life for children — and $500 from the Rotary Club of Twin Falls‘ Ice Cream Funday to cover the cost for eight schools.

Bourland and Pierce put on the workshop Wednesday at Bickel Elementary.

“I need space. I must act,” Pierce announced at the beginning of the assembly. He threw his hand up in the air in a dramatic way and students giggled.

During the assembly, Pierce begins by thinking actors are the most important people in a theater production. But Bourland explains how it takes many people to put on a show.

Many hours, weeks and even years of work are needed to put on a production, Bourland told students, and it’s a risky venture. If the audience doesn’t like it, the show closes, and the cast members and crew are out of a job.

She asked for a student volunteer to be a producer. Dozens of hands shot up and those who weren’t chosen let out a sigh of disappointment.

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Fifth-grader Nici Galvan was instructed to come up to the front of the school gym. “I see your name’s on the posters,” Bourland said. “Are you the producer?”

“Yep,” she responded, and gave a thumbs up. Her classmates laughed.

Bourland explained the many different people needed to produce a play, such as a composer and lyricist if the production includes songs. They receive a royalty payment every single time the play is produced for about 100 years.

It’s the job of a stage manager, she said, “to make sure every single aspect of the show runs smoothly.”

Bourland explained many other roles, too, including costume and set designers, publicists, box office and concession workers, casting directors and backers who invest money in the show.

She asked student volunteers to stand up in front of the gym. It showed how many dozens of people are needed for every production.

Once the workshop was over, most students went back to class. But for one group, it was time for recess.

A few students gathered up against a chain link fence in the schoolyard waving goodbye as Pierce and Bourland got into their red truck to head to the next school workshop.


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