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Families invited to enjoy ‘The Wizard of Oz’ at Columbia Jr. High

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It isn’t often that Fife High School’s Drama Department stages a play straightforward from how it was written, but with a classic like the “The Wizard of Oz,” you don’t mess with perfection. That’s the angle that drama teachers Dave and Teresa Hockman are taking to present this long-beloved story. Now, there will be just a few of their signature touches that audiences will enjoy, but overall the play will stay true to the original.

“We do a little stuff, but with this one you pretty much leave it alone – play it straight and wink when you can,” Dave Hockman said.

That said, there are some pressures that come with recreating “The Wizard of Oz,” particularly on the young actors who will be up there staging a story that people have treasured around the world for generations.

“We tell the kids, ‘you better learn your lines because people know these lines,’” Hockman said, and he has all confidence in the talented youths’ ability to pull it off as they always seem to do when the curtain goes up at Columbia Junior High’s Performing Arts Center.

This will be Fife High’s final play of the school year – and the final play for many of the actors who will be graduating from the high school in a matter of weeks at this point. “We have a huge number of seniors in this thing,” Hockman said, and a lot of sophomores with a couple of juniors and a collection of 8th- and 9th-graders playing Munchkins. As always, the play will be double cast so that the maximum number of students can participate. This means that the quartet of leads – Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion – will be played by seniors in three performances and by sophomores in the other three performances.

“It’s been really interesting to see because the seniors are competitive and that’s been wonderful for us,” Hockman said, which makes the sophomores work all the harder in their friendly rivalry with their older counterparts.

Numerous seasoned Fife performers will have roles in this play, including Riley Burks (Cast One) and Aradia Webb (Cast Two) as Dorothy, Ali Raetz (Cast One) and Gabi Irle (Cast two) as the Wicked Witch of the West, Andrew Parker as The Scarecrow (Cast One), just to name a few.

A fun surprise to keep an eye out for will be during the big Munchkinland scene featuring the Lollipop Guild played by three of Fife Schools adult teachers: Andy Michel, social studies teacher at Columbia Jr. High; Andrew Giddings, advanced placement English teacher at Fife High School; and Jeff Nelson, former longtime principal at Columbia and now Director of Teaching, Learning and Innovation for the district.

Live music is always a highlight of Fife Drama Department plays, and “The Wizard of Oz” will be made all the more wonderful with the musical skills of Dave Hockman on piano and his bandmates George Turner (a Fife High alumnus) on guitar, Dave Hoskin on drums and Fife’s music director Jim Kelsey on synthesizer. Having been playing together since 1974, this group is sure to provide fine accompaniment as the young actors perform favorite songs like “Over the Rainbow,” “If I Only Had a Heart” and many more.

“The Wizard of Oz” opens Friday, May 13 at 7 p.m. (Cast One) and continues Saturday, May 14 at 2 p.m. (Cast One) and 7 p.m. (Cast Two); Friday, May 20 at 7 p.m. (Cast Two); and Saturday, May 21 at 2 p.m. (Cast Two) and 7 p.m. (Cast One). Tickets are $8 at the door, and be sure a bring a little extra cash for the concession stand at intermission.