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Grants at Work: Missoula Children’s Theater

Missoula Children’s Theater (MCT) takes children on week-long tours to perform around the United States. And for many of these young cast members, it’s their first time learning lines, memorizing choreography, taking direction and performing on stage in front of an audience.

MCT’s little red trucks can be seen driving from town to town, mainly in rural communities in the Pacific Northwest, hauling sets, costumes and children to stage musicals. In addition to its touring program, MCT manages a community theater, operates summer performing arts camps and offers year-round youth theater education programs at its large Missoula facility.

At MCT, an artistic director’s job is so much more than simply directing plays and musicals. Before hiring Joseph Martinez as its first artistic director (with help from a Murdock Trust grant), MCT’s CEO shouldered the responsibility, pulling his focus away from his important role in leadership and development. Having a full-time artistic director on board was transformative for MCT.

Joseph ensures that everything MCT does expresses its artistic standards and values. MCT also values Joseph’s leadership and management skills, and he works closely with the CEO, Michael McGill. Joseph shares what it’s like to be the first artistic director at MCT:

“Many people, including family members, often ask me, ‘What exactly do you do?’ It is a difficult question to answer because the job is so multi-faceted. The simple answer is, ‘I direct the art that is presented on the stage.’ But it’s so much more. Yes, directing is a big part of what I do. However, I am also a teacher, mentor, dad, mom, peer, colleague, storyteller, artist and designer, and these are the roles and relationships that make the job hard to describe but incredibly rewarding. In a nutshell, I help children and adults build self-esteem through theater participation, and it is always gratifying to help people find community and artistic engagement with MCT and the performing arts. A mentor of mine recently reminded me ‘to never forget what a gift it is to make other people happy,’ and I want to continue to do that for a long time.”

Thank you, Joseph and MCT, for bringing art to the youth of Montana and for mentoring them and investing in their futures.