Editor's note: Emily Kay Shrader, a junior at Enochs High School and a member of the Teens in the Newsroom program, is playing Dorothy in YES Company's production of 'The Wizard of Oz,' which opens Aug. 8. She kept a journal during the several weeks of rehearsal and is sharing it with Buzzz readers.
Have you ever dreamed of having or doing something, but you never believed it could actually become a reality? Well, this is proof that dreams like that actually can come true.
Ever since I was a little girl, I have been obsessed with "The Wizard of Oz." My best friend and I used to always dress up as Dorothy in the blue checkered dress with the little brown basket and stuffed black dog. Just like every little girl dreams of being Cinderella one day, we dreamed of being Dorothy Gale from Kansas.
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Last summer, when I found out that the Youth Entertainment Stage Company, a theater company I have been involved with for several years, was going to be performing "The Wizard of Oz" in summer 2008, I thought it was too good to be true. At first, I tried not to be excited about it because I didn't want to get my hopes up. I actually had a chance to play Dorothy Gale on stage? I already knew all the songs by heart … even the ones Dorothy didn't sing! I didn't want to allow myself to believe my childhood dream could actually come true.
I will never forget my audition for the part. It was a Saturday and I showed up at Johansen High School wearing a blue checkered shirt, my hair in braids, holding one of my little sister's stuffed puppies. I watched the movie before I auditioned. I analyzed Dorothy's every move — I listened to Judy Garland sing "Over the Rainbow" countless times and practiced clicking my heels when no one was looking. At that point, I didn't let myself think of what would happen if I didn't get the magical part. A couple of weeks later, I found out I had the part. Now, here I am, and tomorrow is my first day of practice as Dorothy Gale.
How should I describe the first day of rehearsal? Overwhelming. There are over 100 people in our cast and crew! These are some of the nicest people I have ever met. They are so accepting, slow to judge, and optimistic about this summer.
And the little kids are cuter than buttons! I can tell a lot of the younger girls in the cast look up to me as a role model, which feels strange to me because I'm used to being that wide-eyed little girl who admires the older teenager. It feels wonderful to know I can have a positive impact on their lives. I just want to pick them up and squeeze them!
Today, I met the dog who will be playing Toto in our show! His name is Conrad, and it is unbelievable how talented and well-behaved he is. Not only are the people at rehearsal so sweet and incredible, even the dogs are amazing!
The biggest part of the Dorothy costume arrived today — the ruby slippers! But there was just one tiny thing that ruined my excitement — I wear a size 7, and they were a size 13 in kids.
Perhaps the most exciting part of becoming a character is the moment you get to put on your costume for the first time. I had been dreaming about putting on the blue checkered dress for months! The dress was different from what I had imagined, but I can't describe how it felt to finally wear it. Once I put on that dress, I was Dorothy Gale. No longer was I a high school student who was having trouble in math class, I was a girl from Kansas who dreams of what's over the rainbow.
The ruby slippers arrived again! Now they were a size 8, and my foot kept sliding out. I guess having normal feet just isn't my style.
I counted how many times Dorothy says "Oh" during the show: a grand total of 93!
Last week, our whole cast was honored with being visited by Carol Channing, the 87-year-old Modesto-based Broadway legend. She was so inspiring to everyone who witnessed her sassy dance moves, her words of wisdom, her breathtaking voice, and her enthusiasm for life. She explained that if you have a dream or a passion for something, you can make it happen whether you're 7 or 87. Right then and there, I decided I want to be her when I grow up.
On Friday, we had our sing-through of the whole show! It was so much fun to see the looks on everyone's faces when the Lion sang his hilarious solo and the mayor of Munchkinland sang in his deep voice. It was wonderful to see another aspect of the show starting to come together.
I can't believe we open two weeks from tomorrow! Uh-oh, my stomach just got attacked by butterflies.
We have spent a total of about 10 hours choreographing our main dance number, "The Jitterbug." Yes, TEN. Let's just say, I can't really feel my feet right now.
The ruby slippers finally fit! They have about a two-inch heel on them, which seems like seven inches to me. I can barely walk without falling when I'm barefoot! Oh, man. Maybe for this dance number, they can magically transform into the ruby flats.
There are only about 12 more days until we open! Twelve more long, hectic, sweaty, crazy, completely exciting days.
This summer, we're doing more than just putting on a play. We're getting a life experience. It's a huge opportunity to be able to connect with an audience of young and old, and to portray a wonderful message to them.
"The Wizard of Oz" isn't just a play about four characters on their way to see the Wizard, although they sing about it four times. Dorothy tries so hard to get back home to Kansas during her journey through Oz, when all she had to do was just believe in herself. She had to have faith that she could get home despite all the obstacles that stood in her way.
We all want something, whether it's a promotion at work, straight A's or a starring role on Broadway. You have to have faith in yourself and never let any struggle keep you from reaching that dream. That's what I've learned from this crazy journey that began last summer, when I didn't believe it was possible for me to land the role I've always dreamed of.
I'm keeping that lesson in mind as 8/8/08 (our opening night) keeps approaching on the calendar. There are hundreds of things that could go wrong, countless lines we could all forget, numerous times when I could be clumsy and make a fool of myself like I always do, (and don't worry, I'm sure I will at some point!). But I'm not going to let fear stand in my way of achieving my dreams. Our whole cast and crew believes in this show and in each other, and without that encouragement, none of this would be possible.
YES Company is more than just a summer theater program. It's a place for kids from the ages of 8 to 18 to come and share their passion for performing and theater with people they probably never would have met otherwise. It's a place for us to go each day and know we're safe. A place where there will always be someone to give you a smile or a hug. It's our home.
We will never forget being stuck together for an immeasurable amount of time as we took our group picture, or the time we did The Hustle together, or when we saw "The Wizard of Oz" movie at Galaxy Theatres. No matter where we will all go after the set has been taken down and the costumes have been stored away in the basement, as all the older kids go off to college and the little ones lose their teeth, I know we will always remember the moment the curtain opened and we stared out into the blinding lights, the sweat already dripping off our faces. The most important part will be that we all experienced it together.
YES Company will always be a place we can go to after any number of years and the memories will instantly come flooding back. Excuse the cheesiness, but I know wherever I go, whatever I do, whoever I become, nothing will ever be quite the same as my summers with YES Company.
After all, there really is no place like home.