Preparing for The Wizard of Oz
Youth theatre group Bounce Theatre, based in Hounslow, were the winners of one of our community grants for Young People’s Musical Theatre in 2010. As the day of their performance approaches, Louise Pendry, director of the production, gives us her thoughts on how the group has developed through the project.
It’s hard to believe that we will mount our musical – The Wizard of Oz – in less than a week. The production will be the culmination of six months of work across Central Hounslow, involving over 200 people between the ages of 3 and 70+.
Local residents have been involved in a whole range of aspects of the production process. Local children will be performing in the play; teenage musicians will provide the accompaniment; we even have a set design team of families, children and older people from Age UK, who with their artwork will transform Lampton School into the world of Oz.
The support of the BBC Performing Arts Fund has allowed us to turn the play into a musical. This is a completely new experience for the children, and it’s proving to be the icing on the cake for us all!
Initially, some children were uneasy at being asked to sing or dance. The boys in particular were less to keen to try some choreography! It has however become a chance for both the artists and the children to learn from each other. It’s encouraged us to find new ways to bring dance and song into what we do. We now have a scene of giant puppet crows flying through the audience, as puppets became a way to get the children to dance without realizing it! We’ve also found that the children are happier to sing while skipping around the room than while standing around the piano. The chance to work with a Musical Director has given the children a whole host of new skills, from learning to breathe to increase their projection, to hitting new notes and creating new sounds with their voices.
Encouraging the children to act has presented its own challenges. You learn to balance your expectation of how to create a character with the realization that a child is learning to speak out loud through what you are doing, so you meet somewhere in the middle. You don’t always get what you think you will, and you have to change your mind a lot along the way but ultimately, I think it makes you better at what you do as an artist. I think it also shows the importance of investment in the arts and young people, because of the broad array of benefits it affords them. One father told me his daughter has dyslexia and dyspraxia so to hear her speaking out lines is both a surprise and a joy.