Imagine a school without a music class, or even a paintbrush. Students of these schools, all across the nation and the world, have no experience with something as simple as a school play.
That all changed when Missoula Children’s Theater came to their town.
Earlier this week, Redmond Town Center’s event facility The Big Picture welcomed Montana filmmakers Pam Voth and Rob Whitehair for a special screening of their new documentary “The Little Red Truck,” which follows a week-long transformation in children through drama brought about by the world’s largest touring children’s theater. It was recently awarded best documentary film at the 2008 International Family Film Festival in Hollywood.
Each year, Missoula Children’s Theatre (MCT) sends out pairs of professional actor/directors in signature, little red trucks to 1,200 communities in all 50 states and 14 countries. Each truck has everything — the sets, lights, costumes — needed to put on a musical, except a cast of kids. In only six days, these tour actor/directors take on the impossible: they audition children kindergarten through 12th grade and stage an hour-long musical performance for the whole community to enjoy.
“I’m so into stories that transform people,” said director Rob Whitehair, describing his inspiration for doing this film. “And when I heard about this story, it was just incredible. I couldn’t believe that there are actually these young adults that travel around in pairs in little red trucks and they go in and have 60 kids and in six days put on this musical.”
The film, a little over an hour-and-a-half long, explores how kids learn more about themselves and each other after spending just one week immersed in the world of drama. The goal of the program is not to find the next Broadway star, but to teach life skills through drama.
“If a kid forgets a line on stage, or something like that, that’s not a failure – that’s just like, okay, we’re going to work as a team and no one is going to know what happened and we’ll just keep moving on,” said producer Pam Voth. “And everyone at the end of the show feels like wow, we did it as team, as an ensemble cast.”
For Whitehair, the director of the documentary, the arts were an integral part of his childhood, so it was important to share this experience with the world.
“Some of the most beautiful things that we saw were kids just saying ‘I learned how to make friends,’” said Whitehair. “They were just so in their shell and this one week can really bring them out.”
Several successful businessmen who were present at the Tuesday night screening recalled their own fond involvement in MCT productions as children. Although it is based in Missoula, MCT has left its mark on several communities in Washington, including places like Bellingham, Bellevue, Renton, Tacoma, Maple Valley, Kent, and Seattle.
“This is a day and age when there are a lot of films out there that can kind of make you angry, kind of make you wonder what is up with this world,” summed up Voth. “And this is one that can really make you feel like, wow, there is something good in this world and you can celebrate it.”
Whitehair and Voth will continue to advertise and introduce their film in local venues until “The Little Red Truck” makes its theatrical debut at the end of July.
Whitehair and Voth hope that families and their children will see the film, spread the word, and realize the power of theater in shaping a child’s character and potential.
For more information about the film and to view a trailer, visit www.thelittleredtruck.com.