Whirlwind drama in Burbank

Students in Burbank are putting the finishing touches on a week of preparation for a production of 'Treasure Island' this weekend.

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A group of Columbia School District students rehearses a scene involving seagulls as part of this weekend's production of "Treasure Island." The production is the crown on a week's effort by students and the Missoula Children's Theater, which brought the play to town.

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Missoula Children's Theater, based in Montana, brings theatrical productions to schools around the country. The Columbia School District's production takes the stage this weekend.

BURBANK -- As leader of a flock of seagulls, 6-year-old Rosana Gutierrez wove across the stage, imitating the flapping of wings, cawing and even singing in one key scene, while her classmates followed closely behind.

For Gutierrez, the chance to participate in the Missoula Children's Theater production of "Treasure Island" has been all positive.

"It's really fun and cool," she said, taking a break as a seagull and while another scene was rehearsed. Although sitting among the audience was not her favored place to be.

"It's more fun on the stage, than on the seats, to me," she said.

Gutierrez is among more than 60 children in the Columbia School District who will present "Treasure Island" this weekend, wrapping up a whirlwind week of auditions and rehearsing. The production is an original adaptation of the classic Robert Lewis Stevenson novel written in 1883.

Columbia School District Superintendent Lou Gates said Missoula Children's Theater was invited to work with students and showcase their talents, while also showcasing the high school's auditorium, which underwent a renovation several years ago.

The Montana-based nonprofit brings actors to communities throughout the country to guide school-age children through a play's production. The company's services bring stage design, props, costumes, scripts and direction into schools.

Caity Johnson and Katie Northcutt are actors with the theater, both with degrees in theater and both Georgia natives, who have been at work in Burbank this week putting Treasure Island together.

Production started Monday, when an open audition was held for students in all grades at the high school, where the play will be performed. The casting has made it possible for kindergartners to participate alongside high school students, in a colorful production featuring an adventure at sea, buried treasure, pirates, sea shanties, and much in between.

On Thursday, students turned in large, decorated paper bags, an assignment from the day before. Northcutt explained that after the rehearsal, she and Johnson would put the children's costumes in each bag in preparation for a quick dress rehearsal Friday before the show.

Thursday also brought the first chance to work with props and set design on the stage, an addition that made the students giddy in their seats.

"The first rule of the set is don't touch the set," Northcutt said, going over some basic rules. "What's the first rule of the set?"

"Don't touch the set!" the students yelled.

Kevin Gravitt, 15, said he couldn't pass up the chance to be in a play at his school.

"I've always been in drama," he said. "Any opportunity there is for a play I always go for it."

Gravitt is the assistant director for Treasure Island, and offers guidance -- especially to the younger actors -- on where they need to be.

"So I'm back stage, keeping things going smoothly," he said.

Gravitt said his school's librarian, Mrs. Langdell, used to help run drama productions at the school. It's from her that Gravitt learned to appreciate how every person involved in a play serves an important role. He said the Treasure Island production has been unique for how quickly it's coming together.

"How many other people can say, 'I was in a one-week play?'" he said.

And as one of three high school students in the play, Gravitt is also serving as a role-model to younger students getting their first introduction to theater.

For Gutierrez, at least, the appreciation of being in a play is already securely in place.

"I think I'm going to do a play again at my school," she said.

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/schoolhousemissives.



If you go

Students in the Columbia School District present the Missoula Children's Theater production of "Treasure Island." Shows are Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at the Columbia High School auditorium, 787 Maple St. in Burbank. Both shows are free and open to the public.

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