“Oh Toto!” Dorothy exclaims.
It seems Dorothy is “not in Kansas anymore,” and neither is Tillsonburg Teen Theatre as they produce the classic Wizard of Oz this week at the Otter Valley Playhouse (Potters Road) in Tillsonburg, August 22nd, 23rd, and 24th at 7 p.m., and Sunday, August 25 with a 2 p.m. matinee.
It’s a well-known piece of pop culture enjoyed by all ages – from children to seniors – said Teen Theatre director Steven Dodd, who has watched all the adaptations featuring Dorothy, the scarecrow, lion, tinman, munchkins, good and wicked witches, and of course, the wizard.
“I’ve only watched (the movie) twice but I’ve seen all the adaptations. A lot of things are based on it like Wicked on Broadway. There’s The Boy from Oz, The Wiz, Dorothy from Oz, Dorothy Returns to Oz… It’s a story everybody knows. You can just have fun with it and people will get what you’re trying to do. They’ve got the gist of the storyline before they go in so you can change it around a bit and they’ll still know what happens.”
Tillsonburg’s 2013 teen production basically follows the three-act script written in 1956 by Elizabeth Chapman, based on the 1900 children’s book by L. Frank Baum. They did make some minor changes.
“We changed the slippers from silver to ruby,” said Dodd, noting a minor change that was made in the 1939 movie with Judy Garland. “In the original book they were silver – I don’t know why. We’ve changed some little things, added some jokes. Some little comedic bits.”
Dodd is new to the director’s role and enjoying it, but still likes acting.
“It’s a little harder being director because you have to know about every character and about everything. As an actor you just have to focus on the one. I would rather do acting than directing.”
The first-time director has enjoyed working with a cast and crew entirely made up of teens.
“It’s really fun – they’re really energetic and they’ll do anything. But it’s hard sometimes to get them to focus,” he added with a laugh.
The actors have a mix of stage experience ranging from ‘lots’ to ‘none.’
“Dorothy has been doing plays forever, I think, and then Glinda (Meg Coyle), this is her first time being on stage. They’re both amazing. It’s great seeing all the different kinds of actors – and experience – come together to make this awesome.”
Going into their final weekend of rehearsals, Dodd said they were pretty much done and ready.
“Just have to get them used to the actual set changes. Teens do everything – all the set changes – and a lot of them have never done it before. It’s new.”
There will be 15 actors performing on-stage, and another 10 teens working backstage each of the four shows.
Producer Andrea VanderPluym has been active off-stage.
“I collect the money for the show, set up all the posters, the books. I’m also ‘the makeup’ and helping with costuming. I’ve pretty much set up everything else outside the show.”
In addition to standard eye/lip makeup, she has ‘special jobs’ like the Wicked Witch, who has all-green shoulders, chest, arms, back and face.
“And I also have to dye her hair,” said VanderPluym. “It’ll be fun.”
Sephora Sandor, 14, is the stage manager.
“I have to control everything backstage,” said Sandor. “I have to make to make sure all the props are on the sets – on stage – before we open the curtains. I’ve been doing some of the blocking – where people stand. I have to make sure lights and sound are ready to go – I have a headset to talk to them. I also worked with the light and sound people to help coordinate it.”
Sandor also checks costumes before actors go on stage. She will also ‘do curtains’ and let down backdrops.
“At the beginning people are really unsure what to do, then by the end everyone gets into what they’re supposed to do. This is kind of a nice age – you tell them to do it once, and then they’ll remember the next time.”
The Wizard of Oz is an adventure story, said Dodd.
“It’s kind of an adventure,” Sandor agreed, “because they have to go find Oz. The original Wizard of Oz was a musical, but the music rights are very expensive. We weren’t able to put music into the show.”
“We’re trying to choreograph it more to the words of the songs,” said choreographer Rebecca Temple, noting the Munchkins do have their own music dance number at the beginning.
“We want to use the ‘movement’ in the words. It’s expressing your words, but you can also express your words in movement.”
Temple has 13 years experience ‘expressing’ in movement.
“Thirteen years in dance,” she smiled. “Even though it’s to music, in things like lyrical you still have to express yourself in your movement of the words – whether there’s a beat or not.”
Choreographing in theatre is different from choreographing at a dance studio, she said.
“With the kids I teach at the studio, they’ve had years of dance training. But if you’re teaching people who don’t know dance, you have to explain the movement and show them how to do it. A few people here have dance experience – like Vanessa, Julia, Hailey… and I think the Sandors.”
Temple’s enjoyed making new friends at teen theatre.
“It’s so much fun, it’s such a good program to be part of – I’d recommend it to anyone 13-19. We’re all here for the same reason – we all want to make the show good. We all work together.”
Some last minute changes were made, she said, requiring a little extra work, but she was confident they would be ready for Thursday’s curtain raiser.
“It’s coming together a lot better than it was three weeks ago. It’s a lot cleaner and they know their movements better. They work off each other, use each other’s energy.”
Teen theatre usually draws good crowds, said VanderPluym, recalling several sellouts for last year’s Beauty and the Beast.
“I believe the first one was the only one that wasn’t a full house.”
Tickets are available at the Station Arts Centre or call the Theatre Tillsonburg box office (519-688-3026).
27 YEARS OF TEEN THEATRE
1987 When The Cat Whistles Death Is Near
1988 3-1 Act Plays
1989 Wizard of Oz
1990 Alice In Wonderland
1991 Crew Cuts and Long Hair
1992 The Hobbit
1993 New Canadian Kid
1994 Heir To the Throne & When the Cat Whistles
1996 Treasure Island
1997 Merch the Invisible Wizard & The Great Zanderthon Takeover
1998 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
1999 The Wind In The Willows
2000 Charlotte’s Web
2001 Secret Garden
2002 Stuart Little
2003 Treasure Island
2004 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
2005 Tom Sawyer
2006 Beauty and the Beast
2007 More Munsch
2008 Phantom Of The Toll Booth
2009 The Clumsy Custard Horror Show and Ice Cream Clone Review
2010 Bridge To Terabithia
2011 Alice in Wonderland
2012 Beauty and the Beast