OCT Launches 40th Season With a Trip to Oz
Concord – Long hours, No pay and love of the theatrical arts. That is the engine that powers the volunteers that are coming together to launch (OCT) Old Courthouse Theatre’s 40th season this weekend with its production of The Wizard of Oz, playing August 27 through September 13.
This timeless classic, based on the book by L. Frank Baum, is one that audiences have come to know and love for generations, beginning with the 1939 movie, starring Judy Garland. In the beginning, we meet young Dorothy who is dissatisfied with the life she is living and longs for a better one. When she is knocked unconscious, she is transported to the Land of Oz where she meets interesting creatures, like munchkins and talking trees. But she also makes an enemy of the Wicked Witch of the West. Through her journey to find her way back to Kansas, she befriends a scarecrow, tin man and cowardly lion. Together, they embark on adventure that continues to delight audiences to this day, as evidenced by the standing ovation the production received on opening night.
Of course, presenting a story that is so familiar to audiences presents its own challenges. “Whenever you present a production like Oz it is a challenge,” said Musical Director, John Stafford. “Audiences are already familiar with the story and the songs. We have to be able to present our interpretation of that story and give them something they haven’t experienced or heard before, without disappointing their expectations. I believe, with this production, we have succeeded in doing just that!” Artistic Director, Heather Wilson-Bowlby, added that directing this play allowed her to realize a life-long dream. “The Wizard of Oz is dream come true! I have tried to live my whole life by the message from this story. .. that everything I ever needed, I already possessed within myself.”
The play stars newcomer, Kevin Stafford as Scarecrow, El Ledbetter as Tin Man (who most recently played Christ in Jesus Christ Superstar at OCT), Cabarrus Magazine’s own Jason Huddle as the Cowardly Lion, who has been acting at OCT since the age of 13, as well as another long-time OCT staple, Melissa Bowden as the Wicked Witch of the West. In an interesting casting twist, Wilson-Bowlby and Stafford actually cast two young ladies to play the role of Dorothy, Taylor Foley and Mia Rice. “We were so blown away by both of these young women, we couldn’t decide between them,” said Stafford. Foley and Rice will alternate performances.
The theater, which operates in an old church on Spring street in Concord, is always looking to partner with local businesses for sponsorships. The building is over a century old and, with that, come lots of maintenance costs. In addition, the actual costs of putting on a show, like "Oz", which has a cast and crew of around 50 people, is not inexpensive. "There are royalty costs, costs for sets and props, building utility costs - and that's just scratching the surface," said Production Manager, Jonathan M. Ewart, who also plays "Uncle Henry" and the "Oz Guard" in this production. Theater organizers say that sponsorships provide businesses with an opportunity to create awareness for themselves in the community, while supporting the arts. In addition, the sponsorships are tax-deductible, as OCT is a registered non-profit organization. Ewart added that the theater does receive a yearly grant from the Cabarrus Arts Council. However, the amount received is only a fraction of the total costs needed to run the theater.
The Wizard of Oz runs through September 13 on the weekends, with two shows each Saturday. For more information on the show or to purchase tickets, call the box office at 704-788-2405 or visit www.oldcourthousetheatre.org. You can also purchase tickets by visiting www.showtix4u.com.
Photo: Kim Martin Photogrpahy