The Knowlton Players are getting set to make their big comeback with a theatrical production of The Wizard of Oz, based on The Oz book series by L. Frank Baum. The Covid-19 pandemic scaled back the group’s ability to put on a big show over the last two years, but they are looking forward to filling up Theatre Lac-Brome when they welcome the public to the world of Oz at the beginning of May.
“Last fall, when the pandemic looked like it was scaling down and things were looking good, I came forth with a proposal to put on a show,” said Jessica Brown, member of the board for Knowlton Players and director for The Wizard of Oz. “One of the great things about the Players is that we pride ourselves on fostering these young kids for having a love for the arts, theatre, and music. We are really lucky to have our kids be a part of it from a young age and they continue and do a number of plays growing up in Knowlton. We realized a lot kids needed an outlet and we wanted to give some of the teenagers that grew up to do one big show before they went off to cegep and university, so I decided on The Wizard of Oz.”
Being a popular story, Brown said they thought the production would be less of a learning experience, and but that wasn’t the case. “None of the kids knew The Wizard of Oz, so we started at ground zero,” laughed Brown. “It’s not what we expected, but everything is fine.”
Things became more complicated when the new set of restrictions were set in place after the Christmas holidays.
“We did auditions in the fall before Christmas and I left everyone with script over Christmas break hoping we’d go back to some sense of normalcy after the holidays. but that’s not what happened,” explained Brown. “We did the first month of rehearsals online. We did Zoom rehearsals for all of January and early February. Once they started to allow small groups, we took the smallest groups possible and we’ve all been masked practicing in the United Church. Everyone participating had to be vaccinated.”
While the situation created more of a challenge, Brown emphasized that it was for everyone’s safety, and that rehearsals are now in full swing. “We’ve been doing in-person rehearsals since mid-February and now we are going into serious rehearsals,” she said. “We managed to bump the dates so that we are doing it for first weekend of May rather than April; because of the pandemic, the theatre gave us the possibility of moving it out a month.”
Joining Brown to work on the play is Rob Ossington, serving as musical director, and Lucy Hoblyn, who is directing the children’s choir.
“We have a small adult choir called the Emerald City choir so they will be in Emerald City beefing up the kid’s choir when necessary,” mentioned Brown. “The little ones have never done theatre before so for them it’s all new. The teenagers have almost all been in multiple productions with the exception of a couple, it’s really their first Theatre Lac-Brome/Knowlton Players show. The casting came together and they all fit into the roles absolutely perfectly. It’s great seeing it all come together and see these kids be someone else; I think we needed it and they needed it.”
As a non-profit organization that had to scale back its activities over the last couple of years, Brown said the local community has been generous when she reaches out for help to put things together or search for specific items. According to Brown, it’s important for the Players to fill up as many seats as possible in the theatre and give back to the community in its famous artistic way.
“It’s not a situation we’ve ever really had. We’ve always done well with our shows and we are lucky and able to give back to the community, but like everyone else things have changed,” she said. “We are trying to head towards something positive and we wanted to give something uplifting for community to come and watch.”
While other productions are in the works for the summer and the fall, the group is playing it by ear and hopes to bring that spark of creativity back to the community. “We are missing it and people are missing creativity and outlets. People forget how to be kind, creative, and funny and people have turned inward; we need to laugh and have some fun again,” added Brown.
An announcement to purchase tickets for The Wizard of Oz will be published on the Knowlton Players Facebook page around April.