Shining on stage: Intense Missoula Children’s Theater school finishes first summer session

A lot has changed in the seven weeks since Whittier rolled into Missoula from her hometown of Lincoln, Neb., to participate in a program nothing short of a thespian boot camp, but with less yelling and more clapping.

Whittier was one of 26 students between the ages of 14 and 18 who enrolled in the inaugural Next Step Prep , an intense summer theater school in Missoula for teenagers serious about acting.

The teachers are veteran stage performers, directors and composers, such as Martin Charnin (writer/director of Broadway’s “Annie”), Curt Olds (“Cats,” “Riverdance”) and Jason Robert Brown (Tony award-winning songwriter/lyricist/composer of the musical “13”).

Now Whittier, the self-proclaimed “weird, nerdy girl at school” can project her voice to the back rows of the theater and is more confident acting in unscripted scenes. She looks forward to applying what she’s learned to upcoming productions at her community theater back home.

“They’ve been working their little heads off,” said Jim Caron, founder of the Missoula Children’s Theater , the parent organization of Next Step Prep. “To see the change in some of these kids in terms of their skills … ”

Caron trails off. There are no words to describe it.

By CHELSI MOY of the Missoulian

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