Tale of Pinocchio

PARKERSBURG – A busy week filled of auditions, preparations and rehearsals came together Saturday through the Missoula Children’s Theatre program at the Smoot Theatre in downtown Parkersburg.

MCT has been coming to the Smoot, at 213 Fifth St., every spring for 17 years. This year’s program featured “Pinocchio” with about 50 local children participating as cast members.

Two performances – one in the morning and one Saturday evening – were the culmination of a full week of work that began with auditions on Monday and rehearsals and other preparation every day throughout the week.

“This has been a really great week and the kids have been fantastic,” said Rachel Bailey, one of the staff directors with the MCT program. “This has been a really fun, energetic group that has made it fun by always being ready to jump in with both feet and give 150 percent.”

Bailey and her staff director partner, Blaire Smith, travel around the country working with children in local theaters, from kindergarten through 12th grade. MCT is the largest touring children’s theater program in the U.S. It is based on a week-long residency during which a team of two staff directors develop and produce a full-scale musical with 50 local students as cast members. Audition, rehearsals, workshops and finished performances for the public are all part of the residency.

“I hope for the little ones, who are brand new at this, that they develop a love for theater arts that carries them throughout their lives,” said Smoot director Felice Jorgeson. “For the older kids, many who have done this several times before, they can now appreciate the audition process and hard work a show takes.”

Arianna Nedeff, 12, earned the plum role as Pinocchio in this year’s production of the play by the same name.

“I have been doing this since I was 5 (years-old) and I love it,” said Nedeff, a student at Parkersburg Catholic Elementary. “It’s fun to be on stage and pretend to be someone else and I get to meet a lot of new people and make friends.”

Twins Maddie and Joanie Owen, 14, played Fox and Cat, respectively, and said their favorite part of participating in the children’s programs at the Smoot is the people.

“I love being in the theater because there is always stuff going on and always someone to meet,” said Joanie Owen.

Although the MCT has been working with children in the Mid-Ohio Valley just shy of two decades, the Missoula Children’s Theatre International Tour has been around 40 years and worked with millions of children. In this year, the MCT will work with 65,000 children in more than 1,2000 communities in all 50 states and 17 countries.

Following the Saturday evening performance of “Pinocchio” at the Smoot, Bailey and Smith were packing things up and heading to Virginia.

“This week at the Smoot was my 20th time doing ‘Pinocchio’ this year and next week we will do it all over again with another group of kids,” Bailey said.