When the audience sits down for a show by the Bigfork Playhouse Children’s Theatre, they see a production that really reflects its name.
“By the time you come to watch that show, there isn’t an adult on stage. There isn’t an adult running the sound or the lights,” said director Brach Thomson. “It’s all kids.”
With its production of “The Nifty Fifties” closing out the 2010-2011 season, the BPCT celebrates its 10th year providing a professional atmosphere for children to take the stage.
Thomson, who is also the artistic director for BPCT, said he usually works with a core cast of kids throughout the season, but auditions are mandatory for everyone, regardless of previous show experience. Cast and crew ages run from second through 12th grade, he said.
Roughly 70 percent of the cast and crew are from Bigfork, with the remaining spaces filled by talented youngsters from outside the village, including Lakeside, Kalispell and Columbia Falls.
The mix of Flathead Valley kids provides an interesting atmosphere for the cast, Thomson said, and helps create connections and friendships that may not have existed without the theater.
And there is actually very little drama that goes on behind the scenes.
“It doesn’t ever feel like there’s a pecking order,” Thomson said. “Everybody’s equally important whether you have a huge or small role.”
The children’s theater in Bigfork has developed a serious reputation over the years, with crowds expecting song and dance numbers consisting of more than a few box steps. The theater has responded with shows that Thomson said could impress audience members of any age.
“We expect a quality performance so people who come to watch our shows walk away saying, ‘Wow,’” Thomson said.
The final show of the season, “The Nifty Fifties,” a musical comedy tribute to the 1950s, will be on stage at the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts on April 22 and 23 for the last performances.
Along with earning their theater chops, the young cast and crew learn other important skills. Putting a production together is a tough job, Thomson said, and the kids learn to troubleshoot problems on their own.
It’s a process that builds on talent, teaches expertise and fortifies confidence.
“By the time they open this show, they’re all very confident and they feel good about what their contribution is to this show from behind the scenes to lead role,” Thomson said.
The kids learn the ins and outs of theater production, which has helped some former BPCT participants build foundations for education and careers in the their adult lives.
One of his former performers recently received her doctorate in opera, Thomson said, and another may have just scored his first acting role in a movie. Others are pursuing theater or voice degrees at colleges and universities.
“We believe that it’s a strong program; it’s good for kids in so many ways. In addition to them feeling good about themselves, it’s one more way for kids to walk down a hall and hold their heads up high,” Thomson said.
He also believes the children’s shows provide a boost for Bigfork off the stage.
“If we can bring in somewhere between 150 and 220 people every time we do a show, that means people are going to dinner, they’re looking into shops,” Thomson said. “Along those lines, I think the village feels the presence of the children’s theater.”
The BPCT season typically consists of five shows and two musical concerts. The productions shut down for the summer, when the Bigfork Summer Playhouse takes over.
For more information on the Bigfork Playhouse Children’s Theatre or for ticketing information, visit www.bigforksummerplayhouse.com/Children’s Theatre.html or call 406-837-4886.
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