By Elianne Frenkel-Popell, Woodside School parent-volunteer.
For more than half a century, all Woodside School graduates have shared a culminating eighth-grade experience: They have worked together to put on a full scale operetta for their community.
For the past couple of months, the Class of 2014 has learned lines, practiced choreography and sung the songs of their operetta, "The Wizard of Oz," which premiers Wednesday, June 4, and runs for four nights.
All of this magic is happening in Sellman Auditorium, a school building named to honor the life of George Sellman, a beloved former superintendent who, as a newly hired teacher was charged with putting on an operetta in 1958.
Following in his steps, co-directors Matt Waters and Melissa Chait have taken their broad talents and great passion for theater and focused on making this a meaningful journey for all of their student actors.
In addition to dance steps and song lyrics, the 48 students have learned how to work together, and in so doing have developed a greater appreciation of the work needed to put on a live show. (One student was overheard commenting on how dedicated and hard-working Sophia Ashworth is, as she was there for every rehearsal, always prepared and ready to do her best in the demanding role of Dorothy.)
Many of the students are taking on multiple roles, working as a team to create the illusion of a truly grand land of Oz.
While most of the behind-the-scenes work is performed by parents and community members, students have found ways to contribute to different aspects of the show as well.
Two students, Zia Harvey and Ashton Vellequette, spent untold hours at home creating beautiful artwork to help promote the show. Emma Miller (portraying Auntie Em) and Nick Alftin (in costume portraying Uncle Henry) volunteered to lead story time in the library and learned that little kids are very observant when one kindergartener pointed out that they really didn't think Uncle Henry should be wearing tennis shoes.
Devon Diller, Tyler Davis, Macie Nessi, Nicki Bonner, Matthew Wright, Ben Shaw, Brendan Green, Sheera Eskenazi and Jack Cooper have demonstrated a wonderful attitude and willingness to pitch in where needed.
As the story progresses in the Wizard of Oz, we are constantly reminded that "There's no place like home." With a school tradition that is over half a century old, it is not surprising that several eighth-grade parents watch their children rehearse and fondly remember their own Woodside Operettas.
As in years past, the entire community is invited to come watch the production. A pizza dinner will be available every night before the show (a more recent tradition).
Except for Wednesday, June 4, when the curtain rises at 5:30 p.m., the other shows (on June 5, 6 and 7) all start promptly at 7 p.m. Ticket prices are $15. The school is located at 3195 Woodside Road in Woodside.
For ticket information, contact Pam Nessi by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.