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Wizard of Oz to be Performed in Dinuba

IN THE October 20 ISSUE

FROM THE Arts & Entertainment,
andEducation,
andTheatre
SECTIONS

by Brandi Nuse-Villegas

You know the shoes. The songs. The flying monkeys. However, this fall, the Wizard Of Oz is coming to the Dinuba High School stage with a new look and the talent of Dinuba’s brightest actors. The community production is November 4 through 7, with performances at 7:00 p.m. November 4, 5, and 6, and 2:00 p.m. on November 7, at the Hellbaum Auditorium, 340 Kern Street in Dinuba. Tickets are $5.00 for students and $7.00 for adults.

Photo by Brandi Nuse-Villegas

Tidee Gill as Dorothy

“We’re going to give the costumes a little of a Cirque du Soleil twist, other than Dorothy. Dorothy is Dorothy,” said Teresa Hylton, Drama teacher at Dinuba High School and director of the show. “But other characters—like the Munchkins and witches—look a little more contemporary rather than a traditional witch with pointed hat. They’ll still be recognizable, but different, so that will be fun. This performance will be closer to the book, The Wizard of Oz, than the movie.”

It is the third Dinuba production of the Wizard of Oz for Teresa, an accomplished actress and director who has taught and directed in Dinuba since the 1996 production of Bye Bye Birdie. The other Oz productions have been done with Washington Intermediate School (WIS) and the City of Dinuba’s summer program. Over the years, the productions she’s directed have featured elaborate sets, both rented and lovingly crafted by local volunteers, creative twists, and a carefully chosen cast that often seems to breathe new life into their characters and stories. “Because I’ve done it a couple of times [in Dinuba], I wanted to give it a little twist. I’m going with a different company than in the past for backgrounds.”

Teresa has often chosen the plays based on the particular talents of her dedicated drama students. This production is pulling in talent, both veteran and new-to-stage, from throughout the community, with children ranging from kindergarten to recently graduated DHS drama department alumni. Talented singer, actress, and 2010 DHS graduate, Tidee Gill plays Dorothy. “Tidee has an awesome voice,” said Teresa. “So does Natasha [Archuleta], who plays Glenda.”

Natasha is also choreographer of the production, drawing on her years of experience on dance teams that also helped her obtain the title of Cinco De Mayo princess in her talent act two years ago. “She’s doing a really good job,” continued Teresa. So is her large cast of beloved characters, which includes many young kids who are new to the stage. “Watching the munchkins…You can tell they’ve been practicing very hard. These kids are really good. They have endless, new energy and they’re bringing that in. One can’t help but get hyped up about that.”

Scarecrow is being played by DHS student Thomas Hayes, also a talented singer and perhaps the most veteran performer of the cast, having performed since early elementary school in roles that include Tiny Tim and Oliver. “He has been with me the whole time. His younger sister [Olivia Hayes] is in the play also,” she said. Olivia is still in elementary school and has already performed in 11 plays.

The Tin Man is being played by Steven Ruiz, who is also an experienced and talented DHS Drama actor, as is Victor Manzo, who plays the Wizard. The Cowardly Lion is being played by a newcomer to the stage, WIS student Bryant Arballo. “He blew us away when he auditioned. You would never know he was in seventh grade, because he can hold his own and then some. We have a really strong core group for leads.”

Teresa stated that she was inspired to do Wizard of Oz again after watching a performance in Fresno. “I really got excited when I saw the production at the Saroyan last spring. That was the Royal Shakespeare Company version. That solidified it.” She also was considering the future of the DHS drama department in her selection. Wizard is a production that has allowed her to bring in younger actors, with the possibly of bringing the performance to elementary students in shortened matinees.

In the past, students in the Dinuba Unified School District had opportunities to be in drama performances in junior high and earlier, which meant that there were experienced students who’ve developed a hunger to act by the time they got to Dinuba High. Between budget cuts and No Child Left Behind driven class structures, there is no longer a drama class at Washington Intermediate School. Teresa has felt the impact over the years, prompting her to promote drama among younger kids through summer productions and community wide productions through the high school, in order to get them into drama when they enter high school. “Already kids are saying ‘I’m going to do this again.’ Hopefully we’ll recruit them for future shows. I have a lot of siblings in this show. High school students brought brothers and sisters.”

Teresa was also pleased to note that they are enjoying new lighting, sound, and possibly will have a new curtain by the performances. She stated that over the years, the Hellbaum Auditorium has undergone a variety of improvements, including replacement of the old air conditioning and heating unit. “We’ve come a long way. Compared to the previous Wizard productions in the auditorium, this will be like nothing we’ve seen before.”

For more information, call the Dinuba High School Drama Department at 595-8154.

Brandi Nuse-Villegas is a 1996 graduate of Dinuba High School, and was a reporter and photographer for The Dinuba Sentinel for seven years.

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