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Village Arts, young actors bring Pinocchio to RHS stage

By Staff | Aug 23, 2019

Sue Sitter/PCT Cast and crew for the Village Arts/Missoula Children’s Theater production of “Pinocchio” take a bow last Friday evening.

Village Arts, Inc. and the Missoula Children’s Theater treated Rugby audiences to a lively presentation of “Pinocchio” last Friday and Saturday in Rugby High School’s Tilman Hovland Auditorium.

The group presented two performances. The first took place last Friday evening, and the second, a Saturday matinee, was followed by a family picnic.

Cheerful piano music set the tone for the play’s opening as five street urchins heard Geppetto tell them how his favorite woodenheaded puppet, Pinocchio, became a real boy.

The young actors moved across the stage and delivered their lines at a quick pace, belying the fact they’d only had one week to produce the play from start to finish.

Scenes changed just as smoothly, and with a pull of a curtain or two, a window from Geppetto’s workshop became a forest; next, the throat of a whale.

Missoula Children’s Theater, Inc., or MCT, presents one-week theater workshops like this in each of the United States and five provinces in Canada. MCT formed in the early 1970s to bring the arts to children in rural communities.

Actors working for the program tour the country 12 weeks at a time, bringing classic tales to the stage and introducing new groups of youngsters to the theater every six days.

“We teach life skills through the performing arts,” said MCT’s Thomas Chubb, who co-directs the plays with Vicky Vidziunas. “So, it’s not just performing; it’s about teaching them how to be cooperative, how to get up and face their fears, even in a public arena like this. It’s about just learning and having fun, really.”

Chubb, of Reno, Nevada, is a musical theater and drama major at the University of Nevada-Reno.

Vidziunas, who lives in Chicago and majors in musical theater at Western Illinois University in Macomb, IL, said the young actors fall in a “big range” of ages. “Between six and 18. It’s usually K-12,” she said.

Describing last week’s production, Vidziunas said, “Everyone has a role. It doesn’t happen all the time, but everybody has a role this week.”

Younger actors had roles as toys, while high school-age student Leona Petrovic served as an assistant director for the production.

Vidziunas said the script for the tale was adapted for the children’s theater production by MCT writer Michael McGill.

“(This version of the play) is a mishmash of the classic tale and the Disney tale,” Chubb laughed.

Both directors said they enjoyed their stay in Rugby.

“It’s very welcoming,” Vidziunas noted. “I definitely felt super at home our first day here. Everybody’s so nice. We checked out some of the shops in the downtown area and shopped at the grocery store.”

“And the Lyric Theater,” Chubb added with a smile.

Local participants Leona Petrovic and Allison Selensky, who plays Sabrina, the Blue Fairy, said they enjoyed being a part of the program.

“I’m really excited to be helping, because I loved being in the play,” Leona Petrovic said. “I help kids get backstage and get ready to go onstage, and I help them when they need a cue.”

“I like it,” agreed Selensky, who said of her character, “I make Pinocchio a real boy.”

“It’s something to do (in the summer), and it’s always fun to have a play and put it on,” Selensky added.

Both participants said they hoped to return to children’s theater next year.

“I’d like that,” said Leona Petrovic.

Also participating in the play were Taylor Pritschet as Pinocchio; Mya McNeff as Jiminy Cricket; Kason Connot as Fox; Abby Hager as Cat; Haylee Heilman as Scaramouche; Ryli Kuhnhenn as Harlequin; Brooklyn Hager as Columbine and Mauvlyn Kirchofner as Candlewick.

Urchins were played by Milana Petrovic, Sierra Heilman, Madeline Hurly, Lauren Westphal and Siana Schwab.

Aubree Trottier, Adalyn Westphal, Luke Voeller, Malic Kirchofner, Harper Seykora and Adrian Petrovic played toys, while Pleasure Island kids were Parker Wright, Bracen Welk, Reagen Wald, Kaia Thiel, Addi Mack and Hailey Voeller.

Candlewick’s Crew were: Evan Petrovic, Evelyn Roberts, Isaac Sattler, Bria Brossart and Jack Pritschet.

Emilee Linstrom served alongside Leona Petrovic as an assistant director.

Jill Roberts provided technical assistance, and pianist Dave Schnackenberg provided music for the production.

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