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Gordon Hodgson, 11, right foreground, got fully involved in the Missoula Children’s Theatre acting workshop on June 26 at The Little Theatre of Walla Walla. About 60 children in first through 12th grade rehearsed that week for performances of “Jack and the Beanstalk” at The Little Theatre.

It never ceases to amaze me how much talent is in Walla Walla. And they start very young. 

Parents who had children at The Little Theatre of Walla Walla and those at Walla Walla Community College — please continue to encourage your children to do theater. It is a lifelong passion that teaches and teaches. 

I have been doing theater for over 30 years and I continue to learn. I don’t share this story often, but I can tell you that theater saved my life. It gave me something that allowed me to believe in myself. I found something that I was good at and I grabbed hold and have never let loose.

Theater builds confidence in so many ways. And it doesn’t matter if you are on stage or behind the scenes, it is all very satisfying.

My first role in college was in “Guys and Dolls.” I played several roles including the Cuban waiter. 

He has no lines, but the director had me do this hilarious dance with a couple to their table on the opposite side of the stage. 

Think Cordiner Hall on Whitman campus, that size stage and a little bigger. It was a long way. 

Well, to say the least, I wound it up every night. Oh and that was after a complete costume change from three-piece suit into a dance costume, in 45 seconds. I slid on stage just as the curtain went up each night.

Anyway — the audience howled and there was a point when I realized I had them in the palm of my hand and it was the greatest feeling of my life. 

People had talked about “getting high” — there is no substance out there that can give you the euphoric high that I felt then and every time I perform now.

I really feel I can tell you that I might not be around today if it wasn’t for what theater did for me. 

Theater takes in those with all kinds of talents. So often kids do not fit in sports or other activities but somehow if they find their way to the theater, they might find something that will last a lifetime.

So — The Little Theatre hosted Missoula Children’s Theatre recently. More than 70 auditioned and around 60 were cast. 

There are some really fun bits in the “Jack and the Beanstalk” production. I was happy to see Jazmyn Paul on stage as Jill. Lucky Bona as Jack did a great job. Milky White, played by Elenore Strickler — she just had to moo.

The circus kids were fun, especially the clowns. The merchants and farmers had to work to stay in group time and did a great job.

The beans (the little ones) were pretty funny. Some did the steps, some didn’t; some sang, some didn’t; some said the words, some didn’t — they were lovely.

I have to say Walla Walla Community College’s “The Princess and the Pea” is one of my very favorite shows Connie Loomer has done as far as performers go. 

She had so many strong kids in her cast. All of them did such a great job. Lots of laughs and just a fun evening.

There are a few I have to shout out to.

My sweet Catie Allen as Princess Minerva (she was our Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird”) — was great. She has such stage presence for someone so young. I love this young lady and was so glad to see her in this show.

Theo Gryler as “Jacke the Jester” — Theo never lets you down. He had a fun part and as usual made the most of it.

Ari (Sir Squishy) and Talia (Rosebud) Kim-Leavitt — these kids come into the bookstore at Whitman College (where I work) pretty regularly because their dad works upstairs and mom also works on campus. 

They are very smart and crafty and fun. It was a surprise and treat to see them on stage. Great job!

Frances Lastoskie as Mildred — she was so fun to watch in the top of the second act dance. Hilarious!

Banyan Moss as Old Queen Maude was brilliant. She is 15 and played the “OLD” Queen with perfection. Her facial expressions and timing were so great for someone so young. I hope to see her on stage more.

Naomi McLaughlin as Princes Barbiette — and her Barbiettes Teresa Wheeler and Simone Wheeler brought a blast from the past as they portrayed “huh valley girls.”

Evi Sisk as Princess Olivia — who gets the prince in the end — had a grace about her that was lovely on stage.

Kellen Van Slyke as Sir Squirrelly was another hilarious dancer in the YMCA number. OMG, we laughed at him. He has great stage presence.

I hope to see him on stage more.

Turner Van Slyke as King Maximillioin did a great job. He wears the crown well. I see acting runs in the family. He was really great.

Caleb Wagner as Valiant and Aiden Carver as Donald Dunce played very well together. They definitely seemed to have the bulk of the line load. Often it was just the two of them on stage. Well done!

A few just really stood out:

McKenzie Bayne as Princes Diana Dingaling — well, as I told her, this is by far my favorite thing I have seen her do. She was HILARIOUS. Her snort and laugh and physical comedy were awesome! So great to see her on stage again!

Lene Erikson as Princess Stella — this girl takes the prize for funniest of the night. She knocked our socks off. OMG, she kept building and building and I so wanted to see more! Way to go, Lene.

Annie Carpenter and her sidekick were two of the other funniest characters on stage. They were aliens. Annie is the daughter of a very longtime friend Karen Carpenter; we go all the way back to high school maybe even junior high/now middle school. I love this

girl!

There were so many

and they all were really wonderful.

Connie Loomer, you know how much I love you and I am always in awe of the stuff you and Kevin Wayne Loomer put together. Big hugs! Well done!

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