Developmentally Disabled Journey to Oz

Friday, August 19, 2011
Tim and Teri are off to see the wizard!

After meeting the director of the upcoming production of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," Taylor Palmer felt compelled to do her part to help the cast comprised primarily of developmentally disabled adults.

"I adore theater and I love people," the Notre Dame Regional High School senior said. "I thought it was an awesome opportunity."

Palmer is among a dozen volunteers taking time out of their busy schedules to help bring to life the story of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."

The performance is slated for Saturday, September 10th at the Cape Central Junior High School auditorium at 3:00 p.m. Tickets for the play are $2 each and can be purchased at any VIP Industries location.

About 70 actors and crew members are involved in the theatrical production, which is the second one for Project Stage Light. Last year, the group presented "A Christmas Carol," as its' debut production.

This year promises to be even bigger than last, which has increased the need for volunteers. This year, 12 individuals stepped forward and joined the SHINE program, which provides volunteers for programs sponsored by the Association for persons with Intellectual Disabilities (AID), in conjunction with VIP Industries.

"The SHINE volunteers are a wonderful combination of family, friends, staff, and students," said Meagan Edmonds, director of the upcoming production. "Several individuals simply offered to help with the project because they believed in the work that Project Stage Light and AID are doing."

For Palmer, she is glad she volunteered to help and through the process has come to realize that working with the developmentally disabled is something she wants to do the rest of her life, whether that is through her future career or volunteering.

"This is just an amazing experience you can't get anywhere else," Palmer said. "These are some of the most incredible people I've ever met."

Excitement Grows in the Actors

As the time draws near for the big performance, the cast and crew are growing more eager for the show and are casting their nerves aside.

For one actress, who never performed on stage before, says she is not nervous about her role as the Good Witch of the North.

"It's our people . . . our friends," said Jill Hanschen. "They're not expecting perfection, they're expecting us."

It also helps that she has had her lines memorized since June.

Cast mate, Tim Kunz, who plays the Cowardly Lion, admits that his line memorizing isn't going as smoothly since he has a "whole bunch" of lines to remember. But with a little under a month to go, he is not worried, as he has some of his easier lines memorized and has a tape of his lines to listen to while practicing at home.

He is very excited about his upcoming role.

"I really like acting and getting up in front of people," Kunz said.

Depending upon what character an actor is portraying will depend on which Act of the show he or she will be in. Some will only be in the first Act, while others only in the second. Some actors will be in both. Because Kunz is in both Acts, he has more lines to memorize than some of the others.

Because the role of Dorothy is a major part, the character has many lines. As a result, four women were cast to play her, including Palmer. Also cast as Dorothy is Teri Schrader, an individual with developmental disabilities who participated as a caroler in last year's production.

"Not only does this provide more opportunities for actors, but it brings a new flare to the part," Edmonds said. "Each actress is unique and her own style and personality is seen through the character."

"This is my first major play I've been in," Schrader commented.

She admits to thinking plays were boring when she would watch her sister perform.

"This is quite a switch," she said with a smile.

About the Play

While most people are familiar with the movie, "The Wizard of Oz," not many have had the opportunity to read the book. This play is based on the book, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," which offers a wide array of characters that are not mentioned in the movie.

"From field mice to flying bees, we are able to offer a variety of roles to our actors that the audience may not be familiar with," Edmonds said.

But even with the differences, the audience members will still know the basic story line. "I think the audience will notice the changes, but recognize the story and that is what it is all about," Meagan said.

Ticket Information

Tickets can be purchased at the following locations: VIP - Cape, located at 1330 Southern Expressway; VIP - Jackson, located at 5616 US Hwy 61; or, VIP - Marble Hill, located at 108 State Hwy 51S. Tickets may also be purchased the day of the show at Cape Central Junior High.

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