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Jackson Knox, as Dorothy, with Toto, aka Mr. Pibb, and Taryn Hill as Dorothy's aunt in Austin High School's production of 'The Wizard of Oz.'
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Jackson Knox, as Dorothy, with Toto, aka Mr. Pibb, and Taryn Hill as Dorothy's aunt in Austin High School's production of "The Wizard of Oz."

There's no
play like 'Oz'

Austin students enlist 'Mr. Pibb'
the dog to join musical cast

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com · 340-2446

Need some courage? How about a heart? Lacking in brains? Want to find your way home?

The magical Wizard of Oz may be able to help, so join Austin High School drama students who are headed to find him this week.

Special effects bring Kayla Posey, as Glinda the Good Witch, onto the stage in a bubble in Austin High's 'The Wizard of Oz.'
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Special effects bring Kayla Posey, as Glinda the Good Witch, onto the stage in a bubble in Austin High's "The Wizard of Oz."
You can see "The Wizard of Oz" on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. or Saturday afternoon at 2. The starting point for the magic is the Austin High auditorium.

"This is a good family show, so we added a Saturday matinee for this production," said director and drama instructor Susan Thompson.

And for the family production, she enlisted a family dog to make his acting debut as Toto. "Mr. Pibb" is perfectly calm and not cowardly at all when faced with a lion, scarecrow, tin man and witch.

"He's really helping sell a lot of tickets, too," Thompson said about Mr. Pibb, who belongs to her brother, John Godwin, and wife, Amy.

During rehearsals, the dog rests comfortably in the arms of Jackson Knox, who plays Dorothy in the trademark blue-checked jumper and sparkling red slippers.

"Working with a real dog is so cool," she said.

But she also loves the way Dorothy "is really passionate for others and wants to take everyone to the Emerald City to find what they're missing."

"I love the special effects in this show, too — the bubble that brings the good witch, Glinda, onstage, and the wizard that's projected on a screen, and the cyclone scene (when a tornado hits her Kansas home)."

She and some of the other students say they grew up watching this musical and movie.

"Since I was little, I've always wanted to be Dorothy, so getting to play her during my senior year is a dream come true," said Knox.

Chaz Hargrove, as the cowardly lion, remembers getting to sit in the front row at a children's theater production of "Oz" in Pueblo, Colo., when he was 5. "The lion was right there in front of me, and ever since then, I wanted to be the lion."

Hargrove said this is his favorite of all the school and community theater shows in which he's been involved. "I love doing my 'If I Were King of the Forest' song — and getting to jump on the trampoline, too."

The tin man in need of a heart, Sam Barker, though sweating underneath his aluminum-look costume and funnel hat, said the "Jitterbug" scene is his favorite.

"I'm not much of a dancer, and this is the first time I've had to sing and dance at the same time, but this is a fun scene — and it was cut from the original movie in 1939," he said, so many have not seen it before.

Kirk Averitt, as the scarecrow, said he likes "getting to flail around all over the stage" as the character without a brain.

"It's kind of ironic that all the characters in real life already have what they're looking for in this play," Knox said.

Kayla Posey, as Glinda, carries a magic wand and enjoys playing the one "who's sweet and wants to help Dorothy. And the bubble's cool, too."

As the Wicked Witch of the West, Sarah Tryon said she likes "throwing Dorothy down the stairs," as well as seeing the Munchkins flee when she appears. "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead" is a song everyone remembers, along with "We're Off to See the Wizard," "If I Only Had a Brain" and others.

Some cast members are double-cast in two roles. Roy Chase plays Uncle Henry and the Emerald City Guard; Taryn Hill is Aunt Em and Jitterbug; and Shane Perry plays Professor Marvel and the Wizard of Oz.

The cast also includes groups of Munchkins, the Lullaby League, Lollipop Guild, Crows, Apple Trees, Ozians, Jitterbugs, Flying Monkeys, Winkies and a vocal ensemble.

Student musicians play in the orchestra, and backdrops rented from a theatrical company add realism to the scenes.

If you go

What: “The Wizard of Oz” by Austin High School’s drama department

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, plus a 2 p.m. Saturday show

Where: Austin High School auditorium

Tickets: $7 at the door; for information, call 552-3062

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