Excitement pierced the air on June 25, as 16 boys and girls of all ages from Walla Walla Valley Disability Network gathered in the Mildred Stewart Room of The Little Theatre of Walla Walla for an opportunity to get a taste of what theater is all about.
The acting workshop was conducted by Tatjana and Jake Moore from the Missoula Children’s Theatre, who led the group through of series of acting exercises culminating with participation in a short play.
“This is MCT’s first outreach to the special needs community and Jake and I are so excited to do so,” said Tatjana.
“We wanted to reach out to a group of people who generally seem to be left out of the theater process.
“This group of young people showed us what wonderful things theater can be for children with special needs.”
Sitting around in a large circle, the participants began with an icebreaker where each stated their name and chose a favorite season: winter or summer.
The responses varied from inaudible whispers along with small gestures to big, bold replies with melodramatic movements.
The next step was to practice facial expressions.
According to Cyndy Knight, coordinator of the Walla Walla Disability Network, “This exercise was perfect for many of our kids who have trouble reading someone’s facial expressions. Getting an opportunity to practice and recognize common facial expressions is very important to these children.”
Jake then led the group in learning a song that would be part of their final performance.
Each time through, the volume and enthusiasm of the singers grew in confidence.
Character development came next with choice of type of character — chef, dancer, painter, fish — and the group had to guess which character was being acted out.
Lastly, movement was added to the song and the children were ready to perform in front of a small audience of parents.
Leading the children through the story, Tatjana and Jake told the story of many people who all had lost a special item and it was up to Jake to help each character find their item.
The workshop ended with many smiles and hugs along with a lot of thanks from parents in the audience.
“Watching each child bloom was so special,” said Cyndy.
“This opportunity is one in a million. Hopefully, the Walla Walla Disability Network will be able to partner with The Little Theatre in the future. This workshop was amazing and was so important to all those involved.”
The truth could be witnessed in the faces of the excited children as they left the building.
The Little Theatre offered several free acting and improvisation workshops during a weeklong MCT residency to produce “Jack and the Beanstalk” at theater.
The residency also received support from The American Association of University Women, Walmart and Washington Odd Fellows Home.
Missoula Children’s Theatre, the nation’s largest touring children’s theater, has been touring extensively for more than 30 years now from Montana to Japan, and will visit more than 1,000 communities this year with 35 teams of Tour Actor/Directors.
The Little Theatre of Walla Walla is a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization, which has been producing live theater in Walla Walla since 1944.
For more information about its upcoming 75th anniversary 2019-2020 season see ltww.org. The Little Theatre is at 1130 Sumach St.
Cheryl Sutlick is a member of The Little Theatre of Walla Walla Board.