Missoula Children's Theater stage The Jungle Book at Felt

Sunday, is travel day for Elizabeth Bronner and Jennifer Wells. The two young women have signed on for a year with the Missoula Children's Theater, Missoula , Mont. This week, they are in Felt. Each week excepting major holidays they travel from school to school, on Monday, they meet in a local school, and cast for the musical, The Jungle Book. By Friday, under their direction, the play is produced with a Saturday Matinee. Along with the production, the students can sell T-Shirts and CDs.

It's Monday afternoon and time is winding down, the cast has been chosen, Brittni Hutchinson is Mowgli, the man-child hero, Bronner, will play his new found surrogate parent, the bear Baloo. (Bronner and Wills take turns as Baloo as the other directs.) Cast as the friendly black panther Bagheera, is Jessie Sheldon, and as the scheming Shere Khan, Michael May.

Wills and Bronner tell their cast that by Wednesday, Thursday latest; the scripts will be put away, all lines must be memorized.

“That [the pressure] is not a good feeling,” Wills said.

“You don't get to keep the scripts. They have to be used by other casts for the next four months. So don't use it as a chew toy, Bronner smiled.

Bronner tells the cast that by Tuesday, they must report in shoes, preferably sneakers.

“You cannot move in sandals, flip-flops or street shoes,” Wills explained.

Asked how they expected a cast from elementary and high school to interact and pull off a musical in less than a week, they both grinned and Bronner said, “But they do it. It's gonna be awesome. Each cast gets out of it what they put into it.”

According to the MCT website, the quick pulling together of the production is a character-building exercise for the children.

The Missoula Children's Theater puts on productions in all fifty states with different plays, including Cats, and the Music Man.

Bronner and Wills explained that there are 25 teams working throughout the U.S. , Canada and ten other foreign countries.

Bronner and Wills have recently staged productions in Chama, and Hobbs N.M. , Del Rio , Texas , and in some Arizona schools.

Asked how, as they traveled and worked they managed to get along, Bronner, a graduate of the University of Georgia said, “This is much like an arranged marriage.”

“In our training they tell us, it's the kids first, your partner second, and you third,” explained Wills, a graduate of the University of Montana .

The theater partners on each of the 25 teams are theater and or education majors, using the experience to further their careers beyond a year or more of working with children to stage the musicals.

Asked how the job impacted their personal lives, Wills said with a laugh, “You pretty much don't have one. But she, (pointing at Bronner) has a boyfriend she calls every five minutes.”

He's taking care of my cat. He really loves me,” Bronner smiled wistfully.

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