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VILSECK, Germany – "With the bad characters you have to be loud," Vilseck High School student Lauren Carroll explained after she’d belted out a few lines in rehearsal for the Missoula Children’s Theater production of "Robin Hood" on Wednesday.

Lauren, 16, who played bad Prince John, was one of 62 youngsters taking part in the play, which was performed in Vilseck High’s multipurpose room on Saturday.

"I’ve had experience playing bad roles before. I played the Wicked Witch of the West’s buzzard in the "Wizard of Oz" (produced by Vilseck School Age Services in April)," she said.

Capt. Peter Carroll, Lauren’s dad, who is deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment told her to have fun with the play because chances to act are few and far between in Germany, she said.

"Acting is something I’d like to pursue but it’s not very probable because we don’t have as many opportunities in Germany as we would in the States," she said.

Amy Maitner, 14, who attends Grafenwöhr Middle School and plays the Sherriff of Nottingham, said the fun of acting is stepping outside your real-life persona.

"It doesn’t matter what people think of you (when you are in character) because it is not you," she said.

Body language is another thing that kids learn when they participate in theater, Maitner added.

Missoula Children’s Theater is a non-profit group out of Missoula, Mont., that aims to help children and youth gain life skills through the performing arts. Instructors take the young actors from audition through rehearsal to a public performance in less than one week.

Chelle Robinson, 30, one of two actor/directors in Germany running the traveling workshops, said the Vilseck show was the last of 14 productions at bases across Europe this year. Installation Management Agency-Europe sponsors the program, which is free to children.

Robinson said the goal of the program is more than giving students a chance to get on stage. "It is developing leadership skills and commitment along with learning about theater," she said.

Vilseck School Age Services director Rhonda Tillery said Missoula makes putting on the shows easy for local officials.

"They send all the materials and you can have all the preparation work done before they get here and you can go straight into rehearsals with the kids," she said.

SAS only needed to provide a pianist, two rehearsal spaces and a final production space, she said.

"They bring the two instructors, all the costumes, sets and energy," Tillery said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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