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Paynesville Press - August 8, 2001

Play held in new auditorium

By Linda Stelling

Patches A children theater's summer production of "Patchwork Girl of Oz" became the first drama performance in the new school auditorium over the weekend.

Since the auditorium was dedicated in June, construction workers have been putting the finishing touches on it in preparation for the play. The air conditioning got operational last week.

"What a great experience for the kids," said Michelle Andersen, who brought her three boys to see their first play. She thought the auditorium made a huge difference in viewing the production, compared to watching and listening to a play in a gym or lunchroom, as in the past.

Patchwork Girl (Sami Tierney) dances across the stage after coming to life. Watching in awe is Dr. Pipt (Ted Hoffman), while his wife, Margolette (Katie Schlick), stands frozen after coming into contact with the liquid petrification. The Patchwork Girl went on a journey to find the ingredients to cure her frozen parents.

"Everybody did a great job," agreed Lou Reeck, another play attendee. The acoustics in the auditorium made a big difference, she added.

Dr. Bob Gardner, who chaired the facility task force that researched the school addition, was encouraged to see the turnout for the first performance. Around 250 people attended the Thursday night performance, sitting in nice seats and enjoying the air-conditioned comfort.

Four performances of the play were given, on Thursday and Friday night and Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

The play is a sequel to "The Wizard of Oz" and contained some familiar characters from that better-known story along with many new characters. The story centers on the journey made by a patchwork doll brought to life (Sami Tierney played the part of the Patchwork Girl) to find the ingredients to save her petrified parents.

Thirty-two students – ranging from second to tenth grade – had parts in the production.

Kelly Wedel and Callie Bennett, who played tottenhots, said it was fun being in the play as they had a lot of goofy songs to learn.

Using the new facility was enjoyable, added Charlene Strand, the musical director. Several members of the cast had to learn six different songs for the play, in addition to some of the original songs from "The Wizard of Oz," used in the introduction.

It was a great opportunity for the kids to be on stage, using lively music and a sound system, especially after previously performing in a gym or school cafeteria, added Strand. For the last two years, the community education plays have been presented at the Paynesville Area Center.

"Think of the experience these eight-year-olds will have by the time they get to high school," Gardner said of the actors in the play.

Scenery and costumes
The new facility motivated the play staff to spend extra time working on the visual aspects of the performance. "The play was really different than anything else we have done before," said Sue Teicher, one of the co-directors. "It was great being able to practice with props and to have a curtain to close when changing the sets," she added.

Reeck noticed the work that had been put into the costumes and sets.

Molly Zimmerman and Gretchen O'Fallon teamed up to make scenery for the production. "It was wonderful to try things and make adjustments before the first production," said O'Fallon. In the past, they didn't know how pieces of scenery would look until the first performance.

The new auditorium enabled them to make adjustments after practice. After using the cave – actually a calf hut on loan from a local farmer – during a rehearsal, they found more fabric was needed to cover the back of the cave.

"The lighting is so different from the scene shop to the stage," Zimmerman said.

Cast of Characters The women also enjoyed working on the scenery in the new scene shop. For previous productions, O'Fallon either made things in her living room or her garage then brought them to the production site. Since the set work was being done in the same place as rehearsals, students could stay after practice and help.

The children theater's cast of "The Patchwork Girl of Oz" came out on stage to sing the finale. This production of a sequel to "The Wizard of Oz" was the first drama performance in the new auditorium. Thirty-two cast members staged it four times over the weekend.

"The scenery was truly a community effort," O'Fallon said. "A lot of people donated items for props."

Because the new facility has room for costume storage, extra effort was also put into costume design. In the past, costumes typically were not saved from year to year.

"The costumes took a lot of time to make, but it was fun," said Brenda Whitcomb, who made some of them for the production.

The school received an arts grant from the Central Minnesota Arts Council to help finance the new costumes and scenery.

Cast of characters
Patchwork Girl: Sami Tierney
Cat: Tanya Whitcomb
Ojo: Megan Reeck and Lauren Vaske
Dr. Pipt: Ted Hoffman
Margolette: Katie Schlick
Unk Nunkie: Kelly Wedel
Donkey: Jayna Flanders
Woozy: Cary Jo Schlick
Shaggy: Courtney Colbert
Scarecrow: Annie Bertram
Soldier: Rheanne Zimmerma
n Bodyguards: Sam and Josh Bungum
Wizard of Oz: Zachary Schwandt
Ozma: Emily Meh
Dorothy: Kaitlin Burlingame
Yoop: Megan Whitcomb
Tinman: Ginelle Zimmerman
Jack Pumpkinhead: Lindsey Pelton
Pumpkin children: Jackie Skoglund,Kristine Hoeft, Kendra Hengel, and McKenzie Quade
Tottenhots: Carly Lemkuhl, Allie Weidner, Allie Wendroth, Callie Bennett, Samantha Strodtman, Taylor Haag, Hayden Spaeth, and Courtney Higgins
Directors: Colleen Pelton and Sue Teicher
Music director: Charlene Strand
Choreographer: Abby Johnson
Accompanist: Cheryl Colbert
Costume designer: Brenda Whitcomb
Set designers: Molly Zimmerman and Gretchen O'Fallon
Stage managers: Kendra Hengel and McKenzie Quade

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