Fort McCoy News July 12, 2013

McCoy CYSS youth take to stage in 'Pinocchio'

Youth eligible to participate in the Fort McCoy Child, Youth and School Services (CYSS) program auditioned for parts in the children's classic, "Pinocchio," at Fort McCoy June 17.

By the date of the performance, June 22, they had gained character — the kind that really counts.

Cori Yahnke, CYSS Youth Center director, said the play was put on as part of the Missoula Children's Theatre (MCT) tour. It was the fifth consecutive year youth participated in an MCT play during the Fort McCoy CYSS Summer Camp.

PHOTO for Pinocchio
Youth in the Fort McCoy Child, Youth and School Services program perform
in the classic play "Pinocchio" as part of the Missoula Children's Theater tour
at Fort McCoy.
Photo by Liz Weaver

"Students don't need advance preparation for the auditions," Yahnke said. "They are told having 'a smile never hurts' and to be ready to come and have a good time."

The MCT website states its mission is the development of life skills in youth through participation in the performing arts. Creativity, social skills, goal achievement, communication skills and self-esteem are all emphasized through participation in the unique educational project.

The MCT, which is headquartered in Missoula, Mont., has been touring for 40 years. Youth participating in the shows learn lines, songs and choreography to perform as an ensemble in producing a full-length musical.

All of the shows are adaptions of children's stories and fairy tales — a twist on the classic stories that are well-known and loved over many decades.

The two-member MCT team arrived at Fort McCoy in its customized pick-up truck loaded with scenery, costumes, props, make-up and basic lighting — everything to put on a play except the cast members.

Youth chosen for roles went through two-hour rehearsals twice a day in preparation for the culminating performance.

"Youth learn everything about putting on a play," Yahnke said. "They have to memorize lines and learn teamwork. They learn there can be consequences if something isn't done right."

The Department of the Army funds the event.

The fact that the Army invests in the production indicates the value placed at the highest Army level on the lessons learned during the production, she said.

Youth are really enthusiastic about the performance, Yahnke said. In the past, they have done productions, such as "Jack and the Bean Stalk," "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," and "Rumpelstiltskin."

"It's their big event for the week if they're participating in Summer Camp," Yahnke said. "They present the play in front of their parents, Family members, relatives, friends and CYSS staff. We had a full house for the performance."

Following the play, there is a cast party to celebrate the event, she said. Yahnke said the CYSS program hopes the Army again will decide to fund the performance for a return to Fort McCoy in 2014.

For more information about Fort McCoy CYSS Summer Camp programs, call 608-388-4373.