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Children's theatre production coming to Libby

by Canda HarbaughWestern News
| June 23, 2009 12:00 AM

The opportunity to participate in theater – to plan, act, sing, dance, design and build – is not always available in small towns like Libby.

Rebecca Sporman, a children’s theater director, knows firsthand. Having grown up in a Kentucky town of less than 2,000 people, her school didn’t have a theater program until her senior year.

When she heard about an opening to direct a cast of kids in a musical production this summer in Libby, she couldn’t pass it up.

“I really like going into small, rural communities,” said Sporman, who resides in Missoula, “because I know what a difference it made to me.”

Sporman helped put together her first children’s production over 10 years ago as a high school senior. Since then, she has earned her bachelor’s degree in drama and toured with the Missoula Children’s Theatre throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.

Sporman will be teaming up with musical director Lorraine Braun, choir director for Libby public schools, to pull together children from the community for a production of “Oliver!”

Theater is a positive tool for kids, Sporman said.

“It really gives them a place to express themselves,” Sporman said. “The kids that are shy get to come out and be somebody else.”

Children, grades 4-12, and artistic adult mentors are welcome to attend the Kootenai Heritage Council’s five-week Musical Theatre Camp free of charge. Official signups and auditions for “Oliver!” are Monday, June 29 from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Memorial Center, but participants are encouraged to sign-up early by calling or stopping by.

Rehearsals will be 5-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m.-noon on Fridays until the performance August 7-8. Participants will not be required to attend every rehearsal, but Fridays will be a full camp cooperative to end the week.

Participants will experience all aspects of putting on a play. Sporman stresses that there is a place in theater productions for an array of skills.

“Theater is not all about being on stage,” Sporman said. “There are a lot of really important positions.”

Sporman foresees making an older high-schooler the stage manager – a position, she said, that can represent the first step to becoming a director. Those who are good with paint can become scenic artists, kids who have taken a shop class or are familiar with tools would be talented set designers, and lighting, she said, takes a whole different artistic ability. 

Directing a play – especially one with children of varying ages – requires creativity and adaptability. Sporman recalls one particular production where only 20 people signed up for a 60-person musical. 

“It’s just about being creative with the story,” she said. “You see what actors you have with what roles.”

The Musical Theatre Camp was made possible through a grant from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, a partnership with Kiwanis and the dedication of educational enthusiasts like Braun.