Production turns regular kids into stars |

Production turns regular kids into stars

F.T. Norton
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer

Lynda Mondragon of the Missoula Montana Children’s Theater program directed a group of Empire Elementary School students to exit stage left on Thursday afternoon during rehearsals.

One of the young thespians stood on the stage for a while until Mondragon prompted him again to leave.

“Oh, you should have told us,” the little boy said as he caught up to the cast disappearing behind the curtains.

“I did,” said Mondragon shaking her head and proclaiming with mock disdain, “Actors!”

Thirty-one first- through fifth-graders are preparing for a performance at the east Carson City elementary school on Saturday.

In a week’s time, with four hours of practice a day, the fledgling theater troupe will perform the musical, “The Amazing Adventure of Robinson Crusoe.” The fine print of the playbill reads, “Loosely based on a novel by Daniel Defoe (and we mean loosely)”

Christina Bourne, Empire Elementary music director, said students auditioned on Monday and began rehearsals Tuesday.

Though they still were looking to Mondragon and her husband Jeffrey Staso, for lines on Thursday night, Bourne was convinced that magic would happen on show night.

“It always comes together in time,” she said. “By Saturday, they just leave with a great sense of accomplishment. I love to see the smiles on their faces. It’s my favorite part of the year.”

Paid for through a grant, this is the fourth year that members of the Missoula Children’s Theater have come to Empire Elementary to turn regular kids into stars for a night.

Co-founded in 1970, the Montana-based theater program sends out teams of drama coaches to help students across the U.S., Guam, two Canadian territories, four provinces and 14 countries undergo a crash course in acting and then perform a play for their hometowns.

More than 65,000 students will participate in the Missoula Children’s Theater International Tour Project this season.

Among those will be first-graders Gaby Avina, Dania Altamirano and Malintzy Sanchez.

They are three of about 10 “chameleons” who will take the stage at some point in the production.

Gaby said she was enjoying the rehearsals, though she spent most of the time sitting on the floor in the school’s auditorium watching rehearsal and singing along to songs she won’t perform on stage.

When asked if she had any lines in the play, she smiled a toothless grin and shrugged her shoulders.

“They haven’t given me any yet,” she said. “But it’s fun anyway.”

The curtain goes up on the play at 2 p.m. Tickets are $1 at the door and refreshments are available for sale.

The show is expected to run just more than an hour.

• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at or 881-1213.