By Rick Palsgrove
In the darkened Groveport Madison High School auditorium, more than two dozen student actors from the Cruiser Theatre Troupe gathered, as they have done for the past several weeks, to rehearse for their upcoming performance of “The Wizard of Oz.”
“We rehearse about four days a week for three to four hours,” said Kiara Myers, who has the lead role of Dorothy. “When we get a day off, it takes the edge off and then I’m ready to rehearse again.”
Amanda Lively, who will portray the dual role of Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West, said, “The hours are long, but we care about what we’re doing and the rehearsals are full of fun.”
Lacey Gray, who will perform in the chorus as well as one of the two Lullaby League girls and one of the apple trees, said being in the chorus is “a lot of work.”
“The chorus does the most dancing throughout the show,” said Gray. “Not only do you have to worry about yourself, but everything going on around you. During rehearsal we perform the same part of a dance over and over because if one person is slightly off the group will look off.”
Myers said the Cruiser Theatre Troupe’s version of the classic story will be different from what people are used to from the famed 1939 film version that starred Judy Garland.
“The only traditional aspect is Dorothy,” said Myers. “We’re putting a modern twist on everything else. The look of the Wicked Witch of the West will have a steampunk thing going with crazy hair and dark clothes. Glenda the Good Witch will look like a pageant queen. I’m excited about it. It will be so cool.”
Added Lively, “Plus there will be a lot of little funny things going on the audience will enjoy watching for.”
The actors said their roles in the performance are challenging.
“As the lead, there are so many lines to learn because Dorothy is in nearly every scene,” said Myers. “It can be kind of intimidating at first, but once I had it down I was good to go. The songs are much easier to learn.”
Myers said, as she explored the role of Dorothy, she found the character, who is around the age of 12 to 14, reminded her of a middle school age student who sees good in everything until confronted with the darker side of the world.
“I love how Dorothy is blissfully ignorant at first and then grows,” said Myers.
Myers, who is a senior, added another aspect of her role she had to be aware of is that some of the underclassmen in the play look to her for guidance.
“I want to be aware and make sure I give good advice,” said Myers.
Like Myers, Gray’s experience on stage is benefitting the younger performers.
“I’m glad I have five years of experience with this troupe so I’m able to help guide the newer people,” said Gray.
Lively said playing the dual character of Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West is an interesting experience.
“Though the characters are similar, I try to make Miss Gulch a little different from the Witch by making Miss Gulch a little more skittish and by having her talk faster, while the Wicked Witch talks measuredly and is focused, which shows her power.”
Lively said she wanted to challenge the stereotype people have of the Wicked Witch of the West.
“I want to make her non-traditional,” said Lively. “I want her to be not as creepy crawly and instead be a powerful figure.”
Lively joked that a side benefit of portraying the Wicked Witch of the West is, “That I don’t have to sing and that’s nice!”
Gray said, while being an apple tree is a different role than she is used to, she enjoys the variety of being in the chorus.
“I like being on stage throughout the entire show so much,” said Gray. “I love that I get five different costumes. That’s my favorite thing about being an apple tree is the amazing dress I get to wear.”
Gray said chorus members audition for certain parts in the chorus and that’s how she and Taylor Ervin earned the roles of the two Lullaby League girls.
“This is only my second year being trained in ballet and I was lucky enough to be able to choreograph the little ballet part we do,” said Gray. “Doing that was definitely difficult for me as I have never choreographed before and then teach, too. We both worked on it and it looks great.”
The students said acting is a good creative outlet for them.
“I love the idea that you can act as weird as you want and do what feels right for the performance,” said Myers. “I enjoy the air of freedom you get in being a character.”
Lively added, “I like becoming a different person. In acting you can be whatever you want. It’s not confining.”
Gray, who attends Eastland Performing Arts, said she looks forward to theatre each day.
“I love acting because you can leave your everyday life for a while and explore a different character’s world,” said Gray. “Theatre has made me grow as a person. I am not a afraid to speak in front of people because of theatre.”
Gray also said theatre is like having a second family.
“The people I act with will always be a part of my life,” said Gray. “Performing has introduced me to a new world that I don’t ever want to leave.”
The Cruiser Theatre Troupe 3323 will perform “The Wizard of Oz” on April 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m. and April 18 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in the Groveport Madison High School auditorium, 4475 S. Hamilton Road, Groveport. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for senior citizens and students and will be available at the door.