There were many firsts in Last weekend’s Knowlton Players’ production of The Wizard of Oz. For many of their actor’s it was their first time on stage and for others including my son Ben (Ben in Focus), it was their first time having a big part even with singing solos. It was the first time that Knowlton Players has done a full production since the beginning of the pandemic. The first time back with a full audience in the theatre, a first doing Zoom rehearsals (they were crazy!).
And it was the first time for Director, Jessica Brown. Boy what a time to direct one’s first show and a huge one at that. She had to contend with actors wearing masks, two varients in covid rushing their way through Quebec, leads and assistants out with covid, a cast of 25 ages ranging from 7 to 80 and multiple parts for the choruses. She had a great back up team with Rob Ossington on music, Linda Carey making all the wonderful costumes and Sofia Cummings (aged 11) as general assistant from day one. Cam and Helen Brown (Jessica’s parents) let her use part of the Camlen workshop to work on the set for weeks before the show. A team showed up to build and paint the highly imaginative sets. Parents pitched in to corral the children’s chorus around to make sure they were in the right place at the right time. The “young at heart” adult chorus pitched in to change sets between scenes.
Though I have been a part of Knowlton Players for more than 25 years, this was my first time being stage manager. They are the person who keeps an eye on lines at the rehearsal and organizes the set changes during the show. I was also responsible for calling lighting cues, so the technician knew when to change them. Luckily Rob Ossington stepped in to run the 80 or so sound cues. I couldn’t have coped. We had 18 scene changes and over 100 lighting cues. With live theatre something new and different happens each night; lines are missed, set change pieces are forgotten like the rock being left on in front of Dorothy, carefully timed explosions go off after the witch has appeared, the smoke machine turns off or the bubbles come on from a different place than Glinda. In the last show a vital chair was forgotten to be moved into the correct place during the tornado. I went on to move it at the same time as Uncle Henry and the farm hands went on. Abandoning moving the chair, I just walked straight on and off the other side to get out of the scene.
So after five months of rehearsals, set building, choreography, lighting designs, sound effects, stage directions, line learning, costume making, prop finding, ticket selling, four sold out shows, and stage managing we closed the show on Sunday full of the absolute joy of being back on stage again and looking forward to the next Knowlton Players show.