MARSHALL - Everyone probably knows the Aesop's fable "The Tortoise and the Hare," but there aren't many people who know the Missoula Children's Theatre version.
More than 50 students at Holy Redeemer School in Marshall now know the story and will perform the musical production of "The Tortoise Versus the Hare" at 7 p.m. today and at 1 p.m. Saturday.
"This is one of our newer ones," said Allison Epperson, an MCT actor/director who will direct the play, while her husband Brian Epperson will perform alongside the 54 HRS students. "The fable is old, but this version of it is only two or three years old. They expanded it to reptiles versus mammals."
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Holy Redeemer School students Meredith Bock, left, Karley Polejewski and Becca Baker rehearsed Wednesday afternoon for “The Tortoise Versus the Hare.”
As the annual race between the reptiles and the mammals is about to take place, audience members get a glimpse into the sporting rivalry and prejudices between the characters.
"The play has a really good message," Allison Epperson said. "We deal with racism but on an inter-species level. It's reptiles versus mammals rather than this ethnic group versus that ethnic group. So that's a cool message that we can teach the kids, that even if you feel that way at one point in your life, you can always change, that you have a choice."
Sixth-grader Sofie Bock is cast as Coach Bowlback.
"I'm formally known as the tortoise, but I am the coach now," Bock said. "I won the race for the reptiles versus the mammals 40 years ago and ever since then, we've lost. I'm a legend I guess."
Sixth-grader Courtney Toulouse portrays the well-known hare named Curly.
"It's really exciting," she said. "I can't believe I got the role of the hare. The play is a lot of fun."
The most difficult part, Toulouse said, is that she makes Bonnie Bunny (Brenna Springborg) cry.
"I love playing an evil character sometimes," Toulouse said. "But it's hard to make Brenna cry, even though it's just a play."
Overall, Toulouse said, the play has been going well.
"It's fun doing the Curly Burly rap and having my management team, the weasels," she said. "I also have a posse and a fan club."
Sixth-grader Isaac Timmerman portrays Philo Ferret, who, along with his ferret sidekicks Dawson Sorenson (Felix) and Evan Franson (Frank), reminds the racing fans that his service station is "for mammals only."
"I play Philo the ferret and he sells gasoline," Timmerman said. "It's really fun. The characters are really cool. I've got my lines down."
Brian Epperson portrays Buddy, an animated television commentator, alongside the news team of Becca Baker (Bailey), Karley Polejewski (Cupcake) and Meredith Bock (Stormy) and camera operators Daniel VanKeulen (Guido) and Eli Cole (Ralphie). The news anchors capture the tension as it unfolds between the two groups.
As race time nears, Coach is running out of eligible participants, including Alli Gator and Leapin Lizard, and fears that the reptiles will be forced to forfeit the race. Buddy suggests that wise, old Coach should take part in the race.
"Slow and steady wins the race," Epperson said.
But Coach disagrees.
"That might be true, but I'm old and out of shape," Sofie Bock said.
Bock appreciates that everyone likes her character, though her role has had some challenges.
"I like that I'm nice," she said. "The biggest challenge is just memorizing parts and knowing when to come on."
As the play proceeds, Bonnie Bunny gets lost and everyone, including the reptiles and the mammals, have to come together to find her.
"It's really fun," Bock said. "I just love how it all comes out and how they twist everything in the play."