Youngsters take on Jack and the Beanstalk

First Posted: 7/6/2009

Austin Vick is no stranger to the stage.
Shes had her fair share of dancing and singing in plays, but the 14-year-old has never taken on a speaking role.
Yesterday all of that changed.
After waiting patiently after a two-hour audition process, she learned she would play one of the lead roles in Missoula Childrens Theatres original adaptation of Jack and the Beanstalk.
The audition process kicked off the first week of camp for the aspiring thespians who also heard their names aloud cast in the play for parts such as jumping beans, circus acrobats, a fire breather and a cow.
Those almost 50 kids will be rehearsing for a whole week to perform Jack and the Beanstalk on Saturday at the Andy Griffith Playhouse at 2 p.m.
Its exciting! said Austin, who has participated in Missoula for five years. Its the biggest role Ive had (since I started). I even have a script book. I kept thinking if I got a role, I want to get the mother of Jack, and when I did, I go so excited.
Austin said shes excited to play a dynamic character who has a lot of range much like herself.
I like that shes maternal and strict, but she has a soft and sweet side, she said in between rehearsing scenes with two other castmates, Gentry Williamson, portraying Jack, and Laura Browne, portraying Jacks cow Milky White.
This years cast of 46 kids is being led by instructors Kyra Koelling and Liz Pascoe, who are the theater camps directors.
Each year, directors with Missoula Childrens Theatre, headquartered in Missoula, Mont., arrive to different communities in each of the 50 states, Canada and 16 other countries days before a theatrical debut, cast local children for roles, teach them their lines and rehearse.
They are such smart kids, I knew from the minute they started auditioning they would be great, Pascoe said after the first day of camp. The kids have a lot of dedication and theyre quite amazing.
The goal of the camp is to promote creativity, social skills, goal achievement, communication skills and self-esteem, Pascoe and Koelling said.
Over 65,000 kids are participating this year. Its surreal to teach arts to kids. The aim of the program is that through arts we will teach them life skills, Pascoe said.
The great part is how the children surprise you, Koelling chimed in. Its amazing how they learn a whole show in a week and can perform it on Saturday. Theyre just excited and ready to work.
That excitement was clearly felt by the other castmates who rehearsed vigorously for the remainder of the camp workshop, learning their lines, their moves and getting to know their roles a little better thanks to the help of the team of two directors.
Some the parents watched their children from the auditorium seats.
Fran Vick, who is the grandmother of Austin and her brother, Xander Vick, 8, said she brings the kids to participate in Missoula ever year. The siblings, who are from Clayton, stay with their grandparents two weeks out of the year during the summer.
They have a ball (at camp). They ask to come every year. They enjoy doing it and being on stage, she said. Its amazing they rehearse for a week and can put a performance on by Saturday.
Austin said the best part of participating in Missoula is three-fold: making friends, being on stage and learning life skills.
Its worth it. Ive met a lot of people. Ive learned a lot of things, and Ive gotten used to being on stage, she said. Its all fun, I like to sing and to dance, I get to do both.
She said for someone who plans to be a kindergarten teacher, Missoula is helping her learn how to help children and interact with them.
Laura Browne, 10, said she knows what Austin means, shes been hooked on participating since she was 4-years-old.
The first year I was nervous, but I wanted to do it more. Its a great place to learn so much and I look forward to it every year, she said.
On portraying Jacks beloved cow and best friend, she said she was rather surprised at the casting, but also delighted.
At first I was a little surprised, I just moo a lot, but its good I get to use a lot of imagination, she said. Its really fun.
Gentry Williamson, 11, is taking on the lead role of Jack, but unlike several of his castmates, its his first year in Missoula. He said hes a little nervous about Saturdays performance, but hes ready for the challenge.
My sisters were doing it, so I thought it would be cool to do it, too, he said. Im excited about it, I have a lot of lines and its pretty fun.
The show is Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Andy Griffith Playhouse. The performance is open to the community, and tickets are $5 each or free with Surry Arts Council season pass.
For more information, call the Surry Arts Council at 786-7998.
Contact Erin C. Perkins at [email protected] or 719-1952.

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