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MCT's 'Wiz of the West': A rip-roarin' good time

DETROIT LAKES - Since Monday afternoon, Missoula Children's Theatre actor-directors Beth Bronner and Danielle DeStefano have been spending every afternoon at Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre.

For four hours each day, through this Friday, June 27, they will be spending their time working with the cast members of "The Wiz of the West," honing their performance skills for the show's debut... on Friday night.

Yes, that's right. In just five days, the 64 area kids (ages 5-17) who signed up for the week-long MCT workshop at the Holmes Theatre will be taking the stage to present a musical that until this Monday, they'd never seen before.

"It's what makes us (Missoula Children's Theatre) unique -- that we do what we do in one week," says Bronner. "It's amazing what these kids can do in just five days."

Monday's activities began with auditions, through which each workshop student was assigned a role in the production. From there, the students began learning the play a piece at a time.

"For some kids, this is the only experience they've ever had with theater," Bronner notes. "We don't use a lot of theater jargon."

Rather, she said, "We help them to figure out the emotions they should be feeling (in portraying their character)," and how to portray those emotions on stage.

And while the duo does spend some time teaching the fundamentals of theater, "We're not here to create little actors and actresses... Our goal here is actually teaching life skills," DeStefano says. "Without ever realizing it, these kids are learning about discipline, hard work, commitment, team work and social skills."

"MCT's mission statement is to instill life skills in children through the performing arts," Bronner adds.

For instance, if a child puts in so many hours of hard work to prepare for his (or her) role, and is rewarded by enthusiastic applause, it could translate over to, say, a science or math class, where if they work hard, "they can have that same feeling of accomplishment," says Bronner.

Wednesday is their favorite time of the week, the duo says, because that's the time "when we start to put the whole show together," DeStephano adds.

For instance, says Bronner, the students are given the lyrics to their songs at Monday's auditions, but it's not until Wednesday's rehearsals that they will hear the melodies of those songs for the first time.

So how have things been going thus far?

"They're (the cast) so much fun -- they're all really into it," says DeStephano.

"There's definitely some great talent there," Bronner adds.

"It's amazing the transformation that happens once you get the audience in front of these kids -- it's really awesome," says DeStephano.

"It's a really fun show to be in, but also really fun to watch," Bronner adds.

And watch it, you can. MCT and the Holmes Theatre are planning not just one, but two public performances of the play, which is a 'Wild West' adaptation of the Frank Baum classic "The Wizard of Oz."

The cast will perform for friends, family and the public this Friday, June 27, at 7 p.m., and Saturday, June 28, at 10:30 a.m. Tickets are $5 for adults, and $2 for students, and can be purchased either online at, by phone at 218-844-SHOW (7469), or directly from the Holmes Theatre Box Office, 806 Summit Ave., between the hours of 10 a.m.-2 p.m. each day (the box office is also open for two hours prior to each performance).

The Missoula Children's Theatre (MCT), the nation's largest touring children's theatre, visits more than 1,200 communities each year. For more information, please visit

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454