‘The Wizard of Oz’ touches down at Lawrence Arts Center

Published on the Kansan

On Friday, June 14 The Lawrence Arts Center opened the junior production of The Wizard of Oz for their first weekend of Summer Youth Theatre (SYT) performances.

Since 1973, the Lawrence Arts Center’s SYT program has been coaching children through theater. After celebrating their 50th season in 2023, Justin Harbaugh, who serves as the Associate Director of Performing Arts & Education, knew this year’s show lineup had to be a big one.

“We actually did a poll for the first time ever,” Harbaugh said. “We got together a focus group of different students and different age groups who had been in our shows, we also polled the staff as well so they’d had a selection of titles to pick from and Wizard of Oz was definitely the top of the list.”

The junior performance, directed by Kayla Sandusky, consists of students between fourth and eighth grade who spend three weeks learning their roles. At the end of those three weeks, the show has three performances open to the public. Sandusky emphasized the importance of highlighting the skills of the students participating in the show.

“The vision behind this production has been elevated summer camp,” Sandusky said. “I’m really inspired by what students can create and bringing that to life and making it feel more magical. In the live theater you know things can go so many directions and I really just wanted the kids to feel empowered and own the stage with this.”

The program utilizes costume and technical theater classes to provide wardrobe and sets. These classes allow students to learn the behind-the-scenes production of a theater performance. 

The Wizard of Oz is not the only show happening this summer. The next SYT performance will be “PUFFS, Or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years At A Certain School Of Magic and Magic,” directed by Craig Fisher, a theater teacher at Lawrence High School.

“It is a smaller cast,” Harbaugh said. “It’s like a trunk show essentially where one person is playing like 15 different characters so it’s a lot of fun. It’s really fast-paced and it follows the story of a certain magical school that we’re not really allowed to talk about and it kind of follows the Puffs house and the adventures that happened kind of alongside the bigger adventure that happened with a certain magical wizard.” 

Puffs will premiere on June 21 with a 7 p.m. show and continue into June 22 with two shows at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets can be found at the Lawrence Arts Center website alongside information on the two July shows, “Alice in Wonderland” and “Cabaret.”

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