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US Forest Service Partners with World-Renowned Missoula Children’s Theatre for Performance in Maryland

Three Fort Washington area  students perform the song "Bugs Rock" from the musical "The Secret Garden" presented at Harmony Hall Regional Center. (Photo Credit: Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission Department of Parks and Recreation, Prince George's County)

Three Fort Washington area students perform the song "Bugs Rock" from the musical "The Secret Garden" presented at Harmony Hall Regional Center. (Photo Credit: Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission, Department of Parks and Recreation, Prince George's County)

The Forest Service and Missoula Children’s Theatre partnered once again for a special performance of the play The Secret Garden recently at Harmony Hall Regional Center in Fort Washington, Md.

“The Missoula Children’s Theatre and Forest Service partnership is a natural fit because so many of our important initiatives encourage children to discover and understand the natural world while developing healthy lifestyles,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.  “I enjoyed watching this fun show and seeing our local kids learn about nature.”

The Missoula Children’s Theatre International Tour is commissioned by schools and communities around the world to deliver a live performance to local children.

The Secret Garden, based on the classic book of the same name written by Frances Hodgson Burnett, tells the story of Mistress Mary Quite Contrary embarking on a journey from India to her uncle’s home in England.  Along the way, she makes friends with a crow, a robin, squirrels, a snail, sheep, geese, colorful giant bugs that rock and fireflies who light the way at night.  This children’s musical is a story of hope, celebration and resilience of all organisms from humans to animals to plants as the children embrace nature and nurture the garden back to life. To prepare local students for the production, two professional actor/directors arrived in town with sets, costumes, props, scripts and lighting equipment. Everything needed to produce a one-hour children’s musical play — except a cast. That’s where the local children came in. One Hundred and forty-four kids from local schools near Fort Washington auditioned, 50 were cast, and by the end of the week they gained character – the kind that really counts.  In 5 days, they memorized their lines and learned their music and choreography resulting in an outstanding performance.

The performance is an effort to get kids off the couch and away from the computers to learn what the outdoors and nature has to offer as depicted through the theatrical arts.

The Missoula Children’s Theatre worked with outdoor education specialists and Forest Service professionals to develop The Secret Garden as well as a series of interactive, engaging performing arts school assemblies and workshops to help young people discover the great outdoors. Through the process of preparing and delivering a performance, they empower children with a positive self-image, and help them improve communication skills, grades, and confidence.

The Missoula Children’s Theatre’s International Tour Program visits communities in every state, four Canadian provinces, and 16 countries. An estimated 65,000 school children participate in the organization’s productions each year.

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