Stony Point Players begin trip to Oz

By James Grob,

Musical director Derek Sturtevant wasn’t sure which dog was the better Toto.

“I don’t know, they were both good,” he said. “We’re going to have to deliberate here, and take a look on Tuesday. Maybe we’ll have some more contenders.”

It’s just one of many tough artistic decisions Sturtevant, along with director Michelle Grob and assistant director Ryan Wolfe, will have to make in the coming days.

Potential actors and singers of all ages — from middle school students all the way up to retirement age — gathered at the Charles City High School choir room on Thursday for the first round of auditions for the Stony Point Players’ upcoming production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

“It’s really exciting — a lot of great energy tonight. I thought we had a great turnout,” Sturtevant said.

Grob led the interested actors through dialogue and characterization, and Sturtevant led them in song, along with piano accompanist Melanie Johanningmeier.

Some were interested in landing one of the main roles, such as Dorothy, the Scarecrow or the Cowardly Lion. Others wanted to be a Good Witch or a Wicked Witch. Still others said they would be happy to take a small part, or perhaps sing in the chorus.

Between 30 and 40 members of the community showed off talents and made their cases to play a role.

Both of the dogs that showed up Thursday seemed well-prepared for the role of Toto. Boomer, with some help from owner Dene Lundberg, performed some tricks and appeared to be eager to take the stage. Scarlet, adorned with a pretty green bow, sat calmly on owner Lily Woodard’s lap until it was time to perform.

There will be one more round of auditions, from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday in the high school choir room. Auditions for Munchkin roles will be Tuesday and Thursday this week at 3:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Elementary music room. Children in third and fourth grade can try out to be a Munchkin.

The directors will announce the cast on Saturday.

“Based on what we saw tonight, we could almost cast the show if we had to, and I’m even more excited to see what’s to come on Tuesday,” said Sturtevant.

It’s been about five years since the Stony Point Players have put on a show. For that reason, and because both Grob and Sturtevant are relatively new to town, they decided to hold open auditions for all roles. In the true spirit of “community theatre,” anyone in the community interested in participating, either onstage or behind the scenes, is welcome.

Sturtevant and Grob both said open auditions were the best way for them to find out the depth of the Charles City talent pool, and it was a good way for willing local actors and singers to get to know them.

“It’s always a worry, if you’re going to get the word out to right people, and if they’re going to respond in a positive way,” said Sturtevant. “Clearly there are a lot of people here who want to get back on stage, people who haven’t had the opportunity for a while.”

Sturtevant, in his second year as the CCHS vocal director, directed the high school fall musical, “The Adams Family,” with Grob, who is in her first year as a 7-12 TAG teacher at Charles City.

Although they are both new to the community, they are not strangers to the stage. Grob has been involved as either a director, actor or crew member in more than 70 stage productions over the last 25 years.

Assistant director Wolfe, a high school senior who has been involved in theatre throughout his school years, decided to pass on performing on stage for the show, opting for the opportunity to learn about theatre from a director’s point of view.

“I worked with Mr. Sturtevant and Mrs. Grob during the fall musical, where I was in one of the lead roles in that, so it’s really interesting to be on the other side of everything — the operational part of the show,” Wolfe said. “I’m really excited because this is probably what I’ll be studying next year at college.”

Since he is familiar with most of the younger actors trying out for roles, Wolfe will be somewhat of a “youth director.” He will also serve as a stage manager.

“I feel like I have a lot to offer, so I’m glad that I can voice that through being a director now instead of just being a cast member,” he said. “I’ll be able to better help other people grow as cast members.”

Performance dates for “The Wizard of Oz” will be June 30 and July 1 and 2 at the North Grand Auditorium.