By Luke Hegdal
HERMISTON Allison and Brian Epperson have been training young actors for the last four and a half years, averaging 40 shows and numerous workshops every year.
One of those 40 shows will be presented on Saturday as nearly 60 local students stage two showings of "Robin Hood," at 3 and 7 p.m. at the Hermiston High School Auditorium.
The Eppersons' journey begins with an extensive "boot camp," an intensive 10- to 12-hour day training course where they will learn every
aspect of the play they will be teaching.
For each production, the pair face the challenge of teaching 50 to 60 kids a play in six days. According to Brian, they develop a wide array of teaching skills as they face unique challenges in each new community. When asked if the pair have ever had any production go seriously awry, Brian said, "It's our job to make sure it doesn't."
As part of the Missoula Children's Theatre corps of actors, the couple have toured across the U.S., Canada, Europe and Mexico, putting on plays.
"There are ways to get it done anywhere you go," Brian said. "Like any job, you have to find your way." That kind of experience and expertise are part of what has made the Missoula Children's Theatre such a remarkable success for more than 30 years, and why school districts that have had to cut arts programs often call on the Children's Theatre to supplement their curriculum.
"A lot of places we go we're the only theater they get," Allison said.
The Missoula Children's Theatre also offers workshops as a part of what they do, and for the last week the Eppersons have been teaching a wide range of students from elementary to high school in Hermiston.
"It's kind of an outreach thing," Allison said, adding that it's nice to give students who couldn't be in the main production a chance to experience theater and acting.
Allison also said that kids are generally very enthusiastic about being the the plays.
"(In a play) they're supposed to be loud and expressive," Allison said. "A lot of times they just needed that outlet."
As the pair work with the actors for the upcoming production of "Robin Hood," it's clear their students are having fun, and yet somehow Allison and Brian stay in control and keep their actors focused.
Working with kids isn't the only draw, and neither is the extensive travel.
"The best part of the job for me is I get to work with my husband," Allison said. "Plus I get to do theater for a living."
"We don't get a break until the week of Thanksgiving," Brian said.
For more information about the Missoula Children's Theatre, see their web site at www.mctinc.org.
Luke Hegdal can be reached at email@example.com.