When Debra Nelson Pick started thinking back on her 30 years with Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre, she decided to look through some memorabilia, such as booking calendars, to see where the children’s theatre touring company had gone throughout the years.
“I keep everything, so my stack of calendars was pretty tall,” she said.
With her husband Jerry and PFCT Artistic Director Jeremy Day’s help, they spent an entire evening going through the calendars, and when they were through, they discoverd PFCT had performed 4,979 plays in mostly week-long residences over the last 30 years, with 298,740 children performing before 1,493,700 audience members!
“I was really amazed,” said Day, who has worked with PFCT since 2009.
PFCT will be celebrating their 30th year with their annual Theatre Camp at West Central Area Secondary School, August 1-7. Day and company will teach up to 80 children their parts for PFCT’s version of the classic Alice in Wonderland, which will be performed Friday evening at 7:00 p.m., as well as Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 1:00 p.m.
“Since the performances are on Flekkefest weekend, we moved the regular Saturday evening performance to Saturday afternoon at 1:00 so everyone can go to the Flekkefest parade,” said Pick.
Around 50 young people between the ages of 7 and 18 have already registered for the camp, but Pick said there is plenty of room for more. Parents can download a registration form at www.prairiefirechildrenstheatre.com and mail it in, or call PFCT at 320-528-2596 and have a form sent to you. You can also register on the opening day of theater camp, Monday, August 1, if you get to the WCA Secondary School before 11:30 a.m.
“I picked Alice in Wonderland for this 30th Anniversary Camp because it is my favorite PFCT play,” said Pick. “It is colorful, has many lead parts, and some of Dan’s best music.”
Dan Nordquist, along with Pick, was the founder of PFCT back in 1987, and wrote many of the 14 plays and their accompanying music that the teams of PFCT actors tour all around the upper Midwest. Most residencies are one week long, in which the two PFCT actors teach all the parts of the play and perform it with local children. PFCT plays are performed as far away as Batesville, Indiana.
It all started when Pick was hired to direct a children’s play for the Prairie Wind Players during the winter of 1985. Pick and the late Owen Heiberg worked out an original script based on a story written by Herman’s own Mable Werk, called The Boy Who Became a Tree.
The following year they put together a version of Alice in Wonderland, featuring dozens of students from the schools in Grant County.
After two years of touring with the Missoula Children’s Theatre, Pick and Nordquist moved back to Barrett to found their own company - Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre. The summer of 1987 they held a two week camp in Roosevelt Hall that produced Snow White. Pick and Nordquist toured Snow White to 17 locations that year, and PFCT grew from there. In 2016 so far, the theater has held 227 residencies.
“We have always tried to keep it affordable and family oriented,” said Pick.
Until 2008, the PFCT Theatre Camp was held at Roosevelt Hall. But by 2009, the camp had outgrown the hall and moved to West Central Area Secondary School.
“I will always have a love for the hall but at WCA we have so much space and the administration and staff have been so good to us.”
Since 2008, they have also produced a play during the school year at WCA, and this November 13-19, PFCT will be in residence to produce Jack and the Beanstalk.
This year PFCT is also working with the Flekkefest Committee and if you buy a Flekkefest button you will be able to get a discount on Alice in Wonderland tickets.
“Take a break from Flekkefest and come down to Barrett,” said Pick. “Sit in air conditioned comfort and watch a great play.”