By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — It’s not every day that a nationally-known theater touring production comes to Colfax.
But this summer, the Missoula Children’s Theatre will be staging “Blackbeard the Pirate” in the Colfax Municipal Building Auditorium.
And they will need 50 to 60 local children to act in the production.
The story starts as a lazy day at the beach but quickly turns into a mystery and an adventure when the search for Blackbeard’s treasure begins.
Characters in the play include a group of Beach Bums, some Cranky Crabs, Melodious Mermaids, Scary Seaweed Creatures, Savvy Sailors, Precocious Parrots, Cantankerous Crocodiles, Jolly Rodger and Sam the Clam.
The question then becomes — so where have Blackbeard and his crew hidden their legendary treasure?
Auditions for “Blackbeard the Pirate” are open to any student first grade through twelfth grade, said Troy Knutson, president of the Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group.
The Missoula Children’s Theatre production of “Blackbeard the Pirate” is being sponsored by the Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group.
“Approximately 50 to 60 local students will be cast and (will perform) in the play,” Knutson said.
“There is no guarantee that all kids that attend the auditions will make the cut,” he noted.
According to the Missoula Children’s Theatre website, “we bring the arts to all 50 states, five Canadian provinces and 16 countries.”
The website goes on to say, “We want to reach the small communities that have few creative outlets or resources for their children. We want to provide access for places that have none. We envision helping our country’s children grow into confident, successful citizens using the positive results of our programs … Kids are kids, no matter where they grow up. Children in China, children in small towns, and children with special needs all have something in common: a desire for opportunities to express themselves, learn and have fun doing it. That’s where MCT comes in.”
Members of CMBRG are always looking for “new and different events to hold at the auditorium,” Knutson said.
“If I remember right, I think Kobi Shaw is the one who first mentioned Missoula Children’s Theatre to me,” he said.
Recent events in the auditorium have included movies, a Halloween party and a Christmas party in conjunction with the Colfax Public Library.
The popular “Truth Be Told” live story-telling events also have been held in the auditorium.
“Truth Be Told” editions have included stories for Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day. The 60th Anniversary of the Colfax Tornado “Truth Be Told” is scheduled for June 3.
“The Looney Lutherans” visited the auditorium in January, and live music events — The Britons (a Beatles tribute band) and Herrick & Friends — were held in the auditorium recently as well.
CMBRG events in the auditorium have been co-sponsored by the Colfax Commercial Club.
“After looking into (the Missoula Children’s Theatre), I thought it would be a great addition to our event schedule at the building,” Knutson said.
“I just love the idea of having a play at the theater with the cast members being our own community children,” he said.
Colfax has a rich and varied history of theatrical events with the plays and musicals at Colfax High School.
The 2018 CHS production was “The Music Man.” The 2017 CHS production was “Annie.”
CHS students, under the musical direction of Carrie Christensen, vocal music teacher in the Colfax school district, along with director Gene Gibson and many community volunteers, work long, hard hours to stage these productions for the community.
If you have not seen a Colfax High School theater production, “you don’t know what you’re missing,” Knutson says.
“With as theatrical as our community is with all the school plays, I think (the Missoula Children’s Theatre) will be a great experience, especially for the younger children to see what the whole play experience is all about without having to put in the time of weeks and months of practices (for the high school plays),” Knutson said.
“This will give the children a real taste of what the play businesses is all about so by the time they get to high school, they will know whether or not they’re interested in partaking in the high school play,” he said.
“I also love the idea of having a play in the theater that kind of brings back old memories for a lot of people of all the junior class plays held up there (in the auditorium). And I also think it is very neat that our children and our community will be able to be part of this nationally-known organization that will end up being right here in downtown Colfax, Wisconsin,” Knutson said.
CMBRG has been raising funds for almost 20 years to restore the municipal building, originally constructed in 1915-1916.
To date, the restoration group has spent well over $100,000 to upgrade the electrical service to the building and in the auditorium, to paint the auditorium and clean the original stage curtains, to refinish the hardwood floor and to install shades on the windows.
The Village of Colfax also was awarded a $180,000 energy efficiency community development block grant to upgrade the building’s heating system and to install energy efficient windows.
CMBRG currently is raising money to install an elevator in the building.
The Colfax Municipal Building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Auditions for “Blackbeard the Pirate” will be held on Monday, August 13, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., at Colfax Lutheran Church at 601 Balsam Street (from Main Street, turn on East River Street; the Colfax Arts & Antique Mall and the Colfax Pharmacy will be on the opposite side of the intersection).
Those who wish to audition must arrive on time and stay for the entire two-hour session, Knutson said.
The first rehearsal for “Blackbeard” will begin 15 minutes after the auditions.
“There is no cost to audition for the play, but if you are chosen to participate, there will be a $25 charge per child,” Knutson said.
No advance preparation is needed to audition, other than to bring a smile, he noted.
Those who are auditioning for “Blackbeard” must have a clear schedule for the entire week. All children are required to attend all rehearsals, Knutson said.
“Your child may not be needed for every rehearsal or may not need to stay the whole time. Those decisions will be made by the directors,” he said.
Rehearsals will be at Colfax Lutheran Church on Monday, August 13, after the auditions, and then again on Tuesday, August 14, and Wednesday, August 15, from 9 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.
Rehearsals will be at the Colfax Municipal Building on Thursday, August 16, from 9 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., and on Friday, August 17, 12 noon to 4:15 p.m.
The Missoula Children’s Theater touring productions are complete with costumes, scenery, props and makeup. MCT Tour Actor/Directors will conduct the auditions and rehearsals.
Assistant Directors also will be cast to help with rehearsals throughout the week and to take on essential backstage responsibilities.
The Missoula Children’s Theatre directors will need somewhere to stay for that week, and unfortunately, Colfax’s only bed and breakfast, The Tapestry Trunk, is booked for the week, Knutson noted.
After all of the hard work of auditioning and rehearsing for the Missoula Children’s Theatre production of “Blackbeard the Pirate,” the public will have an opportunity to attend three performances of the play.
“Blackbeard the Pirate” will be staged in the Colfax Municipal Building’s historic auditorium on Friday, August 17, at 5 p.m., and on Saturday, August 18, at 10:30 a.m. and again at 1 p.m.
The cost of tickets will be $10 for adults and $5 for children under the age of 12.
For more information about the “Blackbeard the Pirate” event, you can contact Troy Knutson at 715-962-3027 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.