Family entertainment coming to the Mishler

A couple of beauties are coming to the Mishler Theatre as part of the Blair County Arts Foundation Family Theatre program March 16 and 19.

Missoula Children’s Theatre will present “Beauty Lou and the Country Beast” at 3 and 7 p.m. March 16 and American Family Theater Inc. will perform “Sleep-ing Beauty” at 7 p.m. March 19.

Each show has four performances for schools and the public. About 15,000 to 20,000 children, parents and educators see the series of shows yearly, said Blair County Arts Foundation Executive Director Kate Shaffer.

The foundation picks shows familiar to children that educate and entertain, Shaffer said, adding that the performances offer lessons on morality, values and live theater nurtures creativity.

Fifty to 70 kindergarten through 12th graders will be cast in the Missoula production, Shaffer said. The foundation brings the workshop to the area each year.

What the touring company does to put on the show is “fascinating,” she said.

The show comes into a town and starts from scratch – casting and rehearsing during the week with a piano accompaniment, Shaffer said.

Auditions are being held at 4:30 p.m. Monday at the Mishler.

“We’ve been providing this opportunity for kids for about 20 years now,” she said. “It’s a great, great opportunity for them.”

Missoula’s production of the classic story of “Beauty and the Beast” has a country-western twist, Shaffer said.

Eric Doades, Missoula tour actor and director, said the touring company is excited to work with the children. They hope to help them develop life skills through their participation, as the Missoula mission statement says.

The American Family Theater production of “Sleeping Beauty” follows the classic tale more closely, Shaffer said.

The national touring company the foundation welcomes at least once a year is “wonderful,” she said.

“It’s one of the super favorite tales. It’s just timeless in scope,” said Laurie Wagman, chair of the American Theatre Arts for Youth. “I call it the ultimate time machine.”

The story is about a baby princess that a disenchanted witch casts a spell on to prick her finger on a spindle when she turns 16 years old and fall asleep. One hundred years later, a brave prince awakens the princess and others.

“The musical theater company puts on a full production complete with top-notch actors plus wonderful costumes and sets to tell the centuries-old tale from around the world,” Wagman said. “This production provides an enriching experience. The performing and visual arts are cornerstones of civilization, and we use the arts as a fine learning and teaching tool.”

The theater puts out a guide for students, and about 35,000 children total will see this show, she said.

“We’re building audiences for tomorrow,” she said.

Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.