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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Volunteers help bring 'Wizard of Oz' to stage

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

(Photo)
New Madrid County High School students Sarah Vanever and Sade Taylor paint the set.
NEW MADRID - In the "Wizard of Oz," everything is easily solved - a wave of a magic wand, three clicks by the ruby slippers, a bit of smoke and noise.

Yet, what looks easy on stage takes an army of volunteers behind the scenes to create. While they might not get the spotlight that comes to the actors who will take the stage in New Madrid County Central's production of the classic musical on March 18, 19 and 20, director Judy Henry calls them a vital part of the play.

For many of them, behind the scenes is just where they want to be.

Carefully moving her brush across the scenery, Allison Fowler, a sophomore, explained this was her way of being part of the production.

"I like the Wizard of Oz and I wanted to help," she said. So Fowler joined the Set Production Class headed by art teacher Linda Melkersman. Here, she and the other students are learning about set production and painting techniques.

"This is a littler harder but not as hard as I expected," admitted classmate Sarah Vandever about their work. "It has been fun."

The students said they look forward to sitting in the audience and surveying their work. In fact, they have decided to go as a group one night of the production.

Marilyn Truelove will only be able to view her efforts from behind the curtain. Truelove has volunteered to assist backstage with the many scene changes and props. Also she is busy making the Wicked Witch's hour glass and will help actors with the makeup.

"This is one way I can feel like a part of things," said Truelove, who also is a member of the school office staff. She has helped with other productions and said each year more people seem to become involved. "I think this is one of the few things we can all come together and do. Everyone seems willing to help."

Don Phillips agreed. "I think here at school we have got more involvement each time because of the successes in the past. It is a positive thing for everybody and as the performances get near, the kids get excited - it gets contagious," he said.

Phillips has worked with the school's musicals since the production several years ago of "Grease." With each subsequent production, he has found himself more involved. For the "Wizard," Phillips has the official title of assistant director but could be the play's "jack of all trades."

When not assisting in front of the stage, he has sewn costumes, designed scenery and last week was dyeing shoes red and gluing on glitter to create Dorothy's ruby slippers. "The more involved and challenging, the better I like it," he explained.

Phillips said the volunteers, who are on the school staff and from outside the school, make it easier on the directors and actors as they concentrate on perfecting their performances. He also expressed appreciation of the support the productions get from the school administration, staff and community as a whole.

"Any time we have asked for help, assistance and support we have had it. I appreciate that," he said.

The production is a learning experience for the students, whether on stage or behind the scenes.

Jim Russell put students in his ag construction and the Ag Science 1 classes to work building the sets. This year's production has some intricate work, he noted.

"This is all wood and we don't get to work with wood very much," he explained. "Here we are working with wood and power tools. They can learn just about every facet of carpentry there is."

Once their work is finished, Russell said the students will often check on the art class that is painting the sets. As the opening night nears the students are just as excited about the performances as the actors, he added.

And there is one final lesson to be learned from the behind the scene work, Russell said. "It teaches them about school spirit and being involved. They come to understand what it is like to be a part of something, achieve something and be a part of something as a group."

Tickets for the play are now available. Tickets are $5 each and can be reserved by calling the high school office at 688-2165 during school hours.