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NEA Spotlight: Missoula Children's Theater in Missoula, MT

NEA Spotlight: Missoula Children's Theater in Missoula, MT

Last week, the National Endowment for the Arts announced over $84 million for 1,144 new awards to arts and culture organizations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and each of the five U.S. territories.

Among the 13 artistic disciplines recognized by the NEA this year were seventeen regional and community musical theatre organizations across the United States.

This month, BroadwayWorld will profile these organizations to let them express, in their own words, what the award means to their organization and how the funding will not only enable them to plan and execute new productions and community programs, but help recover from financial losses sustained in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Today's profile is the Missoula Children's Theater in Missoula, Montana.

What was your application process like?

The application process is extensive and includes work samples, a tour schedule, artistic statements, a detailed project description (plus plans and benchmarks for evaluation), detailed project and organizational financial information, bios of key staff, descriptions of project partners, and more. The NEA (they use review panels) is very thorough in its vetting of organizations.

Why do you feel the NEA is so important, particularly at this moment in history?

Now, during the pandemic, so many arts organizations are hurting badly. Many, like MCT, have had to cancel all their programs and have very little or no revenue. Many funders, and understandably so, are focusing on basic needs such as food, medical supplies, housing etc., and the arts are not currently first on most funding lists. The NEA helps Americans remember the arts and the important role they play in our society (they uplift us, and wow, we all need that now!), while they also help us understand our history and identity as Americans.

How do you intend to use this grant in your theatrical programming?

We will use our grant to support our domestic Tour.

How will this grant benefit your community? What non-theatrical initiatives (education, community outreach, etc.) will you fund using the award?

There are side benefits to a community when MCT comes to town for a week. People come together to support the program, the week is an opportunity for host organizations to raise funds, people gather to see the show, parents carpool and bring snacks to the young actors, kids make new friends and gain life skills, and the community loves seeing local kids on stage. In addition to staging the play with local kids, MCT touring artists teach three drama education workshops in each location.

What was the effect of Covid-19 on your operations and how will this award enable your organization to recover? How can our government better aid arts organizations that have been affected by the pandemic?

COVID has had a huge negative impact on MCT. We canceled all our local programs, including children's programs and Missoula Community Theatre productions, and we also canceled 256 booked touring weeks. When we stopped touring, we had to lay off 66 touring artists. We lost all our programming and all revenue sources.

We tour in all 50 states and overseas, so getting the Tour back on the road is especially difficult because there are no one-size-fits-standards. For example, one state could be in Phase 2 of re-opening, and another could still be in Phase 1. In addition, the safety of our employees and constituents is of paramount importance, so even as we start re-booking the tour (we are hopeful about the 2020-2021 school year), the logistics of the program will be different as we implement social distancing, etc.

We have started some summer day camps, again with new protocols in place, and we hope that community theatre will go on as scheduled in the late fall.

It is wonderful to be recognized and supported by the NEA. It is like a national seal of approval. We also deeply appreciate NEA support at this time of great financial need.

Government (in general -- this comment is not specific to NEA) could further help the arts by earmarking more loans and emergency funding specifically for arts organizations. That would show an understanding of the need (there are 1,000s of jobs at risk) and would perhaps also lessen some of the competition for general government/CARES funds.

Missoula Children's Theater brings the arts to all fifty states, five Canadian Provinces and sixteen countries, providing arts access to small communities that have few creative outlets or resources for children. Their programming includes an International Tour, Performing Arts Camps, a strong local children's season, Missoula Community Theatre, and the magnificent home base facility that MCT is proud to call home.

The company's ultimate goal is to help children throughout the world grow into confident, successful citizens using programming which give children opportunities to express themselves, learn and have fun doing it.

Learn more at

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