As Dorothy hopped and skipped her way around Oz on Monday night, an army of students and volunteers were working in harmony to make the magic she encountered come to life on the Hermiston High School stage.
It was the first dress rehearsal for the high school’s production of “The Wizard of Oz,” which debuts Friday.
“It’s gonna be a bumpy ride, but that’s OK,” director Beth Anderson encouraged the students as they prepared to go for the full effect of the show for the very first time.
The first actors came onstage at 5 p.m., but work started well before then as costume, make-up and technical crews made sure the students looked the part and were wired for sound. Sounds of the student orchestra warming up drifted over the auditorium, and stage managers were making sure set pieces and props were in order.
“It’s extremely easy to lose track of props and costumes backstage,” assistant stage manager Ava Tixier said.
The sophomore said she had done costumes and make-up for the school’s past productions of “Seussical” and “Game of Tiaras” but she was particularly enjoying the chance to get a broader view of how a show comes together backstage.
Actors have to have confidence to get onstage in front of an audience, she said, but the stage manager and assistants have to have the confidence to boss their peers around. It may look like chaos as people and set pieces move around quietly in the dark backstage, but there is a very specific method to the madness so that everyone and everything comes on stage at exactly the right moment.
This spring’s star of the show is Joy Breshears, who donned Dorothy’s signature blue dress and ruby slippers Monday. In between being rushed off stage by flying monkeys during multiple tries to get the staging just right, she said the thing she loves about acting is “finding pieces of myself inside these other characters.”
Thoroughly memorizing the dialogue and songs and movements so that she can focus on character development takes a lot of work, she said.
“I’ve read my script more times than I can count and annoyed my family with ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’” she said.
For this show she also had to get used to working with an animal co-star, playing Dorothy’s dog Toto.
“Sparky is amazing,” she said. “He hangs out in my arms a lot. He’s so sweet. He licks my face a lot.”
Dorothy’s traveling companions are played by Louis Parra (Cowardly Lion), Brooks Bellinger (Tinman) and William Kern (Scarecrow).
Kern, a sophomore, said he loved his character.
“He’s really fun. He’s kind of silly,” Kern said. “I like how loosy-goosy he is. I can relate because I’m kind of all over.”
Faith Powell, a freshman who was getting used to a face full of green paint as the Wicked Witch, said it was her first high school play.
“I love the Wizard of Oz, it’s one of my favorite musicals,” she said. “I have memories of watching it with my family when I was five.”
Her favorite part of the character was “messing with” the audience, she said, and perfecting the villain’s evil cackle.
“My favorite scene is in Munchkinland, because I get to be really sassy toward Glinda,” she said.
The play features a large supporting cast and chorus members who show up as munchkins, flying monkeys, singing trees, poppies, Winkie guards and residents of Oz. Chorus members Kylie Barker and Zariah Uzzell said the hardest part was learning all the choreography.
“We have so many different steps, and each character is a different person,” Uzzell said. “The Ozians are rich, for a tree I have to be stiff, and munchkins are like little kids.
Everyone interviewed said the best part of any theater production is always the friends they make. While there is downtime during early rehearsals, however, Monday’s four-hour rehearsal was too busy for long conversations.
Some scenes ran smoothly, while others Anderson called a halt to in order to make adjustments. During one scene, the set pieces didn’t come together right and technical crew members swarmed onstage, studying the problem and laying down bits of color-coded tape to “spike” where the new placement would go.
Jessica Chavez, an assistant stage manager, said while the actors often have elements of their performance set well in advance, the crew working backstage and in the lighting/sound booth are often keeping track of a multitude of last-minute changes to their jobs.
“We have to be adaptable,” she said, adding they also have to keep careful notes because “if we don’t remember, no one will.”
“The Wizard of Oz” premiers Friday in the Hermiston High School auditorium at 7 p.m. with additional shows at 7 p.m. on Saturday and on Feb. 8 and 9. There will also be a matinee showing this Sunday, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors age 65 and older, and $5 for students. Seating is general admission, but groups of 10 or more may purchase reserved seats by e-mailing Beth Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wizard of Oz cast and crew
Dorothy Gale — Joy Love Breshears
Aunt Em — Samantha Steffey
Uncle Henry/Ozian Guard — Samuel Surber
Scarecrow/Hunk — William Kern
Tinman/Hickory — Brooks Bellinger
Cowardly Lion/Zeke — Louis Parra
Wicked Witch/Almira Gulch — Faith Powell
Professor Chester Marvel/The Wizard of Oz — Shawn Conant
Glinda — Keali’imanaole Hamilton
Munchkin Mayor — Maja Rahm
Munchkin Coroner: Dezirae Klaviter
Citizens of Munchkinland/Poppies/Ozians/Trees:
Mackenzie Andersen, Kylie Barker, Nicholas Breshears, Lainey Byrd, Emilio Cambell, Mattison Christensen, McKenna I. Christensen, Justin Goucher, Isabelle Herrera, Madelyn Jordheim, Sophia Jordheim, Dezirae Klaviter, Aurelio Marin, Pedro Martinez, John Myrick, Charles Nelson, Alyssa Perkins, Maja Rahm, Samantha Steffey, Zariah Uzzell, Karlee Varady, Annalise Wright, Paul Vore, Lizzy Vore, Ella Vore, Ty Hansell, Ana Hansell, Peyton Bennett
Special Women’s Chorus: Alyssa Perkins, Sophia Jordheim, Madelyn Jordheim
Flying Monkeys: Isabelle Herrera, Emilio Cambell, Pedro Martinez, Paul Vore
Lollipop Guild: Alyssa Perkins, Sophia Jordheim, Madelyn Jordheim
Munchkin “toughs”: Emiliio Campbell, Pedro Martinez, Charles Nelson
Winkie General: Annalise Wright
Winkies: Nicholas Breshears, Aurelio Marin, Pedro Martinez
Director: Dr. Beth Anderson
Music director, choreographer and pit performance conductor: Mrs. Jordan Bemrose-Rust
Pit rehearsal conductor: Mr. Sean McClanahan
Technical director: Mrs. Kathy Vore
Set construction head: Mr. Sam Vore
Set construction crew: Kris and Doug Bennett, Angela Bryner, Jamie and Mark Childers, Delia Michael, Michelle McAllister, Brent Parks and Construction Arts Dept., Laurie Schulz
Costumes: Samantha Breshears, Kristen Corpus, Tonya Heideman, Leta Keller
Stage manager: Patricia Sandoval
Assistant stage managers: Ava Tixier, Justice Nelson, Jessica Chavez Chairez
Prop mistress: Abigail Sharon
Spotlight operator: Caleb Michael
Backstage crew: Kadence Bauer, Leah Engelbrecht, Andreas Rahm, Cory Reasor, Abigail Sharon, Bianca Sutton
Backstage crew assistants: Nicholas Breshears, Samantha Steffey, Samuel Surber
Makeup and Hair crew head: Makaiyla Waddell
Makeup and Hair crew: Marci Carrera, Isabella Ganvoa, Giselle Gutierrez, Shea Stark, Avery Zumwalt
Costume mistress: Megan Iverson
Costume assistants: Grace Kopta, Karlee Varady
Front-of-house manager: Nayeli Arreola
Assistant front-of-house manager: Kadence Bauer
Promotions manager: Kaitlyn Curtis
Promotions and social media team: Hannah Melville, Maja Rahm
Special effects head and light board operator: Kathy Vore
Spotlight operator: Caleb Michaels
Sound board operator: Tristan Stephenson
Program: Nayeli Arreola
Proofreader: David Wattenburger
Poster design: Nicholas Breshears and Mr. Nathaniel Scott
Dog wranglers: Cori Applegate-Bonifer, Bryon Bonifer, Isaac Bonifer, Louis Bonifer, Andreas Rahm, Bianca Sutton
Littlest Munchkin Wrangler: Kris Bennett
Orchestra: Isaac Reardon, Sarah Brown, Austin Chapman, Avery Szulewski, Griffin Szulewski, Aerick Albee, Jerence Lyons, Lilian Chase, Callie Ann Hoeft, Garrett McClanahan, Nicole Breshears, Hannah Arey, Jessica Ferguson, Logan Daniel, Megan Baskins and Talon Menard