We had a great week this week in Mankato/Madison Lake, MN. We were sponsored by the Mankato Community Education and Recreation Department, and housed in a beautiful bed and breakfast in Mankato called the Butler House. We were working at a venue not far in Madison Lake, MN, with kids from the surrounding areas.
This was another low numbers week with a total of twenty-three. We had some kids that do Prairie Fire every time we come through, which is multiple times througout the year; but we also had a lot of kids who had never worked with the company before.
We had a lot of younger kids in the cast, but they all did a great job at rehearsals, and the performances. Many parents would tell us that the kids would go home and practice their bird dance and noises, or their troll parts, etc. This is always good to hear on such a tight schedule.
By Friday, they were all off book and ready for their dress rehearsal and double show day. We started dress rehearsals at 2pm, their first show was at 5pm, they had a dinner break provided by our sponsors, and then they had their second show at 7:30pm.
This week was interesting when it came to our venue. We performed in a basement at the All Saints Catholic Church in Maddison Lake. We had a platform brought in for our stage; we used our computer and personal speaker for sound; the ceilings were too low for us to put our poles up for our set, so we had to get creative and jimmy-rig our set; and our lights were simply a light switch. This was following last week were we had a beautiful full staged theatre to use.
Now, you're thinking that I'm complaining, and that these kids probably didn't have as much fun as the weeks that have had better spaces... You're wrong! Yes we had obstacles, but we took care of them and made it all work. None of the kids cared that they weren't on a "real stage." They were just excited to perform. They had a great time every day, and so did we.
At the end of our final show we received a lot of hugs and earnest thank you's from both the kids and the parents. Some of them were asking us to come back and be their directors again next year. Some of the first timers couldn't wait until a few weeks from now when another tour team will be in a neighboring town to do "Snow White", and they were begging their parents to let them go. We had parents and kids share with us that because of Prairie Fire, and the opportunities it gives them, their kid wants to be an actor when they get older. One story in particular really stuck out for us.
One of our older girls, who had been one of the strongest auditioners we've seen, made sure to tell us what we do makes a difference. About six or so years ago she had been taking figure skating lessons, but before she made it to her first performance she developed such anxiety that she would have breakdowns and scream for hours. Her parents had to pull her out, and she basically secluded herself from everyone else. Months passed and the family was looking for something to do on a Friday night, and they found an ad for a children's theatre performance happening that night. They attended the show, and at the end, this girl begged her parents to let her do it. You can imagine their surprise and hesitation. When the next show came to town they signed her up, but told her that she'd have to decide by the end of rehearsal Wednesday if she would be able to do the shows. She made it through without incident. She now does every Prairie Fire show that comes to town, I think her total is around twenty-two shows. When she and her dad shared the story, my heart was so blessed. He said that he knows without Prairie Fire his daughter would not be the confident girl she is today, not just on stage, but in everything she does. She wants to have a career as a meteorologist or an actress. So, to all those who work with kids, you make an impact every day.
Congrats to this beautiful cast, you all did a magnificent job! Tomorrow we start the process all over again with Chaska, MN!