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Kids put on play after six days’ practice

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By Don Pace

Actor Caitlin Leyba and a cast of more than 60 kid-actors put on the 2009 Missoula Children’s Theatre stage production of “The Amazing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe” over the weekend.

The West Las Vegas High School 10th-grader came up through the ranks, performing in 10 Missoula productions at the historic Ilfeld Auditorium in her young acting career. Last year, Leyba played the second lead as the sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood.

“This is my 10th year with Missoula, and this is the first lead role I’ve had. It has been a little tough to memorize a lot of lines, but I’ve had a lot of help from my friends and other characters, and the assistant directors have been wonderful in running lines with me. It’s been great,” Leyba said. “Now I feel pretty confident and feel like we’re going to have a good show.”  

Lara Clapp and Emily Therrien were this year’s dynamic duo that follow other Missoula “tour teams” that have created the 15 original musicals that are currently touring with 47 teams of actor-directors passing on the love for acting and doing it in just a few short days of rehearsals.

“It’s funny how kids can be so different, yet in every town, we have this group that reminds me of last week’s group. To think we do this in six days. We can’t believe we do it, and it works every time. We’ve even had five days in some places, and it still works,” Clapp said. “Every time the kids pick it up so fast.”

Clapp said she was a small-town girl from Texas and immediately loved Las Vegas.

“We walked around the Plaza and kids who were in the show and their parents waved at us. It was really neat that they were so excited to see us,” Clapp said.

Like many of the troupe that comes through Las Vegas, Clapp and Therrien were a little in awe to have the historic Ilfeld Auditorium at their disposal.

“Before coming to Las Vegas, we’ve always performed in ‘cafetoriums,’ ‘gym-a-torums’ with a shoebox stage. So, when we walked in and saw a real theater, we both just caught our breath, and said, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so neat, real lights, these are real lights and a real stage,” Clapp said with a big laugh. “When I saw the little plaque in the lobby that said this was on the National Register of Historic places, Emily and I were so excited.”

Therrien, a Wisconsin native, said, “This is the first time we’ve had a really, really nice auditorium. Even the back-stage area makes everything so much easier.”

But Therrien agreed with her partner Clapp that no matter what city, no matter what venue, the kids live up to the challenge.

“It works every single week. I have never heard of any team in the almost 40 years that Missoula has been doing this when they had to cancel a show,” Therrien said.

More than 65,000 young people will participate as performers in the Missoula Children’s Theatre International Tour Project this year. Nearly 1,300 communities in all 50 states, three Canadian territories and five provinces, and 16 countries will enjoy live, on-stage performances by kids in their communities.

“I just know that I like working with kids. I like the arts, like music and singing, and I know it will play a part in whatever I do. Who knows how yet because it’s so cool the way the way all this stuff works out and apply itself to so many different jobs,” Therrien said.