It took Teresa Waldorf around 15 minutes to get the 110 children in her Summer Theatre Day Camp situated into a simple sentence:
Meth: Not Even Once.
The message - created by linking the children's bodies together to form letters on the University of Montana Oval - is intended to affect both the children in the camp and the local community.
"The (phrase) ‘Meth: Not Even Once' as a mission statement is so powerful," Waldorf said. "We want to create a memory for the kids" that meth is bad.
Waldorf's summer theater camp is participating in the Montana Meth Project's Paint the State contest, which invites teens around the state to create public art with an anti-methamphetamine theme.
Waldorf entered her 14-year-old son, Drew, into the contest so the camp would be eligible to participate. If he wins, Waldorf said, she will donate the $6,500 in prize money back to the Montana Meth Project.
The Summer Theater Camp rehearsed the live art display Monday afternoon. The final performance will take place Thursday and Friday from noon to 12:20 p.m. on the Oval.
The Montana Meth Project plans to fly a Black Hawk helicopter over the children either Thursday or Friday to take aerial pictures, Waldorf said.
The Paint the State Contest is only open to teens between the ages of 13 and 18. But because Waldorf entered her teenage son in the contest on behalf of the camp, all the children will take part. The camp has students from ages 5 to 18.
Most of the younger children do not understand what meth is, Waldorf said, but she hopes this early experience will teach them not to use the drug later in life. The teens, however, have a better sense of why the live art display against meth is important.
"(Meth) is a drug that people take that has an effect on their body or mind," said Aline Dufflocq, 12. "It makes them do stuff a normal person wouldn't do. It is super scary."
Dufflocq and her sister Michelle, 15, said the display will make a powerful statement to the community because so many people are participating.
Monday afternoon the children in Waldorf's camp ran, skipped and bounded toward the Oval to form their letter groups.
"Have you ever heard of the phrase ‘herding cats?'" said camp counselor Reid Reimers as he ushered dozens of children toward the Oval for the first rehearsal, a grin plastered across his face.
Waldorf oversaw the entire production with a bullhorn.
Seventh- and eighth-grade campers formed the "ME" while high-school camp members fashioned themselves into the "TH."
The younger children separated into groups, from youngest to oldest, and formed the remaining three words. A few stragglers became the colon and the period.
The entire process took around 20 minutes, and then the kids were up.
"We'll be making adjustments," Reimers said after the rehearsal. "Everything will be tighter (Thursday and Friday) and the letters will be more readable."
The children will wear matching camp T-shirts those days, Waldorf said.
Waldorf has been hosting the Summer Theatre Day Camp for 15 years. The children who enroll in the camp participate in a number of classes including staged fight scenes and Shakespearean acting.
This is the first time the entire camp will be participating in a live art display, Waldorf said.
She encourages community members to come see the performance.
Jessie Higgins is a fourth-year student at the University of Oregon who is interning this summer at the Missoulian. She can be reached at 523-5251, or jessie.higgins @missoulian.com.
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