Actor, director and playwright James Fagan Tait and assistant director Astrid Varnes have fun going over source material for Shuswap Theatre’s summer production of The Wizard of Oz, based on the 1939 film. (Barb Brouwer photo)

Lion, Scarecrow, flying monkeys and more needed for journey down yellow brick road

Large intergenerational ensemble cast sought for November Shuswap Theatre production

By Barb Brouwer

Contributor

Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion are invited to walk the Yellow Brick Road together.

Shuswap Theatre is holding auditions for the Wizard of Oz, which will be styled after the well-loved 1939 movie and will require a large intergenerational cast of about 22.

“It’s an ensemble movement and music piece that will be driving the material that the person sees in the (original) movie,” says Vancouver actor, director and playwright James Fagan Tait. “We will be creating the story that way through the music, but the whole company will be working to create the cyclone and other events on stage.”

The walls of the stage will be painted like a Kansas sky and the scenes, like the trees in the dark forest, will be created by actors using movement and imagination, says an enthusiastic Tait.

As well as the main characters, the play will require main non-singing roles: Auntie Em/Glenda the Good Witch – adult female; Uncle Henry/Emerald City Guard – adult male; Almira Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West – adult female and Professor Chester Marvel/The Wizard – adult male.

When not playing these roles, actors may also be part of the ensemble.

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Also required is an intergenerational ensemble of five people aged 6-18 years and five people aged 18 and up to play the roles of the Munchkins, Ozians, crows, monkeys and more.

The family friendly film that represents a spiritual quest is very appealing in what it has to say about home and family, Tait says, quoting Dorothy in the film’s closing lines: “And it’s that if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there I never really lost it to begin with.”

“Who we need and what we need will come together; it will be shaped by the goodwill and the people who say I am interested,” says Tait. “I am just having an open heart and mind and trust.”

Assistant director and member of Shuswap Theatre’s artistic committee, Astrid Varnes said discussion on choosing the production began two years ago.

“It was done by the Royal Shakespeare Company in London,” says Varnes, who earned a double major – acting and political science from UBC and became involved with Shuswap Theatre in 2015 when she performed in Pack of Lies. “The committee was very enthusiastic.”

Tait is an award-winning actor, playwright, and director who trained in Toronto’s Ryerson Theatre School and the École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris, France. He has extensive experience in professional theatre and has worked as a collaborator and creator in community engaged theatre projects – including Caravan Farm Theatre where he will perform again this summer.

“The draw of having him come is he strengthens the whole experience – teaching and directing,” says Varnes, noting every member of cast and crew will learn from a new style Tait will bring to the theatre. “There will be growth for the whole company and because it’s a show that has such broad community appeal, there’s a really broad segment of the community who will enjoy it.”

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Tait and Varnes are also looking for a musical director as well as musicians.

An optional pre-audition workshop takes place from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, June 4 in the drama room of Salmon Arm Secondary’s Jackson Campus.

A range of drama and ensemble games will give people the chance to meet Tait and get to know his style and his vision for the play and make them feel ready and comfortable for the auditions.

“The ensemble is quite active but people don’t need to be responsible for a line load,” assures Tait. “And we’re also looking at different levels of accomplishment. We’re looking for spirited people who want to have a good time.”

Rehearsals will begin in September for the production that will run in November.

For more information, go online to shuswaptheatre.com.


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