| Apr 10, 2008

Feature Article - April 10, 2008

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Feature Article -April 10, 2008 Getting Ready for 'The Wizard'by Susan Stopford

What does it take to put on a North Frontenac Little Theatre musical production the size of NFLT'S upcoming "The Wizard Of Oz"?

At NFLT's annual general meeting, about a year prior to the show going on, names of plays are suggested by various members and the play list is narrowed down as the members discuss what plays have gone before and what they are interested in doing next. A director is found who has the interest and ability to direct the play, in this case the multi-talented Brian Robertson, a familiar face on NFLT stage. Christina Wotherspoon is asked and thankfully agrees to be the musical director and John Pariselli brings his expertise to the role of producer.

With these key roles filled the play starts to take shape. Audition dates are set and advertised by the director and the producer obtains the rights to the play and orders the scripts and the musical scores. People start to volunteer or are asked to take on various jobs. Some people like to stick with a job they are familiar with and others do something different in every play. Each play consists of both those who have been involved with the theatre group for years and newcomers. All are welcome if they are able and willing to do the work.

The arduous task of stage-manager will once again go to Dawn Hansen and NFLT newcomer, Derek Redmond, who teaches film and media at Queen's, is running the lights. All the members of the NFLT community discuss which acting rolls they are or are not going to try out for and some even get their costumes ready in case they get the part!

Auditions finally arrive, early - December 2007 - and people pack the cafetorium of SLHS despite the weather. There is excitement in the air and the noise level is high. Everyone is nervous, knowing that tonight they are going to be asked to sing or read in front of a room full of people and some are perhaps a little worried as to whether they'll be given a much coveted role. Because the "Wizard Of Oz" has many children and teens in the cast the room has the added high energy of the young. Eventually everyone has been heard by Brian and Christina, some in groups and some individually. There's a lot of laughter and jokes and everyone goes home happy and hopeful that they'll get a part.

Two weeks later the decisions have been made! Emily Dickinson will be Dorothy. Paddy O'Conner has the part of the Lion, Dylan McConkey the Scarecrow and Normand Guntensperger will be the Tin man. The part of the wicked witch, which has been hotly contested, goes to Martina Field and the good witch will be Amelia Redmond. All of the other 55 or so roles have been filled and the play can proceed.

Now the director's work of organizing such a large group of people begins; setting deadlines for lines to be learnt, deciding on a look to the play from costumes to sets and props, finding a choreographer, discussing the lighting and trusting that people will show up at practice are but a few of the jobs that he must be sure get done before the show can go on. He is also busy working with the actors on stage, guiding them through the development of their characters and telling them where to stand and when and often how to move. Every step of the way involves a lot of discussion and agreement among the director and the actors, as well as everyone else involved.

With three practices a week, the play quickly becomes a big part of the lives of everyone who is involved. There's a buzzing hive of activity during each practice as everyone goes about their jobs with great industry. The sets are being built in the midst of dances being learnt and costumes tried on. The director starts to feel horribly overwhelmed although he tries not to show it. His sleep may be disturbed. How can everything and everyone, possibly be ready in time?

Mike Gold, the set designer/builder for the “Wizard of OZ” and a graduate of theatre technology college course, trots by with a partially constructed wall and says that he's "happy doing this." His sets consist of 100 - 8 foot pieces of 1x3's, 9 sheets of plywood, 22 meters of (cheap) muslin, 6 cans of paint, 400 nails, 100 - 2 and a half inch #8 screws, 5 lbs of wood glue, 20 hinges and 20 feet of chicken wire. He designs and builds for two hours every day and 10 hours every Thursday!

There are 10 mother and child actor combos in this play and also a set of twins. The 7-year-old twins, Alex and Jack Revell, join their grandfather John McDougall in this play. Alex says she is in this play "because I want to" and Jack says he's in it "Because I like to sing and I wrote a song called 'Criss Cross Applesauce' and I have it on CD!"

Tom Christianson at 79 is possibly the oldest actor in the group." I wanted to be the Lion but Paddy got the job so I ended up as a guard. I like to be in plays because it's fun and you are not the same person on stage." He has been in a least 20 plays both here and in Sault St Marie.

Students from nine different schools are involved. There are 60 cast members and 24 people working behind the scenes. NFLT has presented 53 successful productions over the past 29 years in Sharbot Lake! By the time this show goes on May 1, 2, 3 & 4 at SLHS, 130 hours of practice will have taken place and $4,700 dollars will have been spent!

With all the years of devotion to theatre by the members of NFLT, this promises to be a great show!

Tickets are available at Gray's Grocery and the Sharbot Lake Pharmacy as well as Verona Rona Hardware. Adults are $12, students $10 and on the Sunday matinee there is a special $5 rate to encourage families with children to attend. Don't wait to get your tickets at the door; they may be sold out. Check www.nflt.ca for more information or call John at 613-279-2662.

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