'Wizard of Oz' runs May 2, 8-10

Dori O'Neal, Tri-City HeraldApril 23, 2014 

Richland High School performs The Wizard of Oz for its spring production, and what makes the show unique is the shared roles of the Wicked Witch and Dorothy.

Senior Firen Hodges and junior Kailey Thomsen will switch roles for each performance, said director Ellicia Elliott.

"When Kailey is portraying Dorothy, Firen will portray the Wicked Witch and vice versa," Elliott said. "I have two amazingly talented actresses who can pull this off. It's lots of work and very demanding, but they are doing a great job with it."

The show runs May 2 and 8-10 in the Richland High auditorium. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. with 2 p.m. matinees on May 3 and 10. There is no evening performance May 3.

"I have wanted to direct The Wizard of Oz for a very long time," Elliott said. "It's the first play I remember watching. And my grandmother and I shared a special connection having The Wizard of Oz be our favorite movie.

"Whenever I tried to direct it in the past, things didn't work out for whatever reason. But I knew before I left Richland High School, I had to direct this show."

Elliott leaves her nine-year drama teaching position at Richland High at the end of the school year, though she will still stay involved in community theater.

"As a teacher and theater director, it is very normal for me to have 12- to 16-hour work days and then be at the school on weekends to work on sets," Elliott said. "When I was single and newly married that worked. But now that I have my son, my priorities have changed.

"I will stay involved in theater, just on a much more flexible schedule."

She plans to teach and direct occasionally at the Academy of Children's Theatre and other community theater organizations.

For now, however, she's keeping her focus on how to give The Wizard of Oz a new feel, like giving the Wicked Witch a little slack seeing a little familiarity between the nasty green-hued wretch and Dorothy.

"The Wicked Witch of the West and Dorothy are really two sides of the same coin," she said. "Both are strong women, both have an objective they are trying to accomplish. It's how they approach the challenges for this objective that makes them different."

Hodges and Thomsen agree there are challenges in tackling both roles, but they welcome them.

"It's been wildly fun getting to learn both roles," Hodges said. "Each has their own physicality and vocal quality. Some days I get to be angry, spiteful and nasty. The next day, I can be a young girl, happy and curious about the world.

"It's refreshing, and I can't wait to express this inner conflict for the audience."

Thomsen couldn't agree more.

"It's a little crazy sometimes, memorizing two different parts, but completely worth it," she said. "How often do you get to play the hero and the bad guy in the same story? Being able to look at the show from the different points of view has also helped me in developing character."

Admission to The Wizard of Oz cost $12 for general admission, $10 for students and seniors and $8 for ages 9 and younger.

-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @dorioneal

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