//PICTURED ABOVE: the ruby slippers used in this year’s production of “The Wizard of Oz”
Dazzling beams of spotlight illuminate the green stage of the Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Theater. An emerald green-themed portrait of the yellow-brick road leading to the Emerald city is painted across the backdrop by the Backstage Crew. The lights dim as the Hockaday eighth-graders take center stage, ready to perform the musical they have prepared for two months, “The Wizard of Oz.”
Every year, the Fine Arts teachers in charge of the Eighth-Grade Musical begin their planning in early spring for the next school year. Bonnie Jean Coleman, Choir and Music Teacher, instructs works on music with the eighth graders. Beth Wortley, Performing Arts Chair and Dance Teacher, produces and teaches the dances to the students. Susan Hubbard, Drama and Fine Arts Coordinator, supervises the Musical while Robert Kallos, Technical Director and Auditorium Manager, oversees the set and Backstage Crew.
The Fine Arts teachers select their options from a list of “junior musicals”, which are about half the length of a normal one. The only companies that manufacture the music and scripts for junior musicals are Music Theater International and Tams Witmark. From there, the teachers look at what musicals have recently been performed at Hockaday and what the eighth graders’ strengths are, whether it be singing, dancing or acting. The final choice for the eighth grade musical is based on what the Fine Arts teachers think will be fun and exciting to do that year.
“Our musical choice is always going to work out no matter what we choose because it’s the process of learning all of the parts, music and dances,” Hubbard said.
The eighth graders have the opportunity to try out for the cast or the backstage crew. If they choose to try out for the cast, they go through an audition that is composed of three parts. The first part is the eighth grader sings a section of a song from the musical they are trying out for. Next, they perform part of a monologue from the musical, and lastly, they learn and execute a short dance to the music from the musical. If an eighth-grader wants to do backstage crew, there are no auditions, but they start planning and producing the set and props immediately.
“My favorite part of the process of producing the eighth-grade musical is unearthing tremendous talent from these girls, a lot of whom do not think they have any talent and will arrive at auditions saying they can’t sing or dance or act, and they wind up doing a great audition,” Coleman said.
Since the musical is “The Wizard of Oz” this year, the eighth-graders in backstage crew painted a set composed of various green mountains, with the yellow brick road leading to the Emerald City in the center of the illustration. Additionally, the eighth-graders in backstage crew painted one of the mountains outline to look like the Wicked Witches profile. The props include many of the items famous to the musical and movie. For instance, the ruby-red slippers, Dorothy’s dog Toto and his basket, the tin man’s oil pipe and so many more. the costumes are designed and created by a team of the eighth-grader’s moms.
This school year is Coleman’s last year teaching at Hockaday and “The Wizard of Oz” is the last Eighth-Grade musical she will be assisting with. She described this year’s musical as “nostalgic”, knowing it is the last Eighth-Grade musical she will ever produce at Hockaday.
Furthermore, the Eighth-Graders enjoy the process of producing a musical as well. One in particular is Jane Clark, an eighth-grader, who plays Professor Marvel, a munchkin from Munchkin Land and a green Ozian in “The Wizard of Oz”
“I have learned that in order to create a successful production, lots of practice and repetition I needed. Also, listening to the feedback and advice we get always helps the next time we perform,” Clark said.
Story by Erin Parolisi