Rehearsing for the Steamboat Springs Middle School production of "The Wizard of Oz" are, from left, eighth-graders Gaby Strnad, Kailee Duryea and Jake Barker.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Rehearsing for the Steamboat Springs Middle School production of "The Wizard of Oz" are, from left, eighth-graders Gaby Strnad, Kailee Duryea and Jake Barker.

There's no place like home

Middle School theater production builds love for arts in Steamboat

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Past Event

"The Wizard of Oz," presented by Steamboat Springs Middle School

  • Thursday, May 15, 2008, 7 p.m.
  • Steamboat Springs Middle School, 5100 Amethyst Drive, Steamboat Springs
  • All ages / $9 - $11

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Steamboat Springs Middle School sixth-grader Christine Krentz watches her classmates perform during rehearsal Tuesday.

— In the Steamboat Springs Middle School cafetorium Tuesday, Rusty deLucia was busy organizing chaos.

As the director of the school production of "The Wizard of Oz," deLucia has the job of making sure 75 student actors know their lines, how to deliver them and where to be on the stage. She has the job of overseeing the acting part of a production that puts a significant portion of the student body to work in a theater environment that exhibits professional intensity.

Elsewhere in the school building, students built wooden replicas of Munchkinland, sewed monkey ears on to brown hoods, worked out props, designed stage art and rehearsed music for the show.

"The big picture is that we want everyone to be involved," said Ann Keating, a basic life-training teacher at the middle school who is co-producing the show with school bookkeeper Joanne Churchill.

"Our participation in this one event is bigger than sports in this building," Keating said, noting that in Steamboat Springs, saying that anything is bigger than sports is saying something. One of the key points to that involvement is putting the planning and execution of the show into students' hands.

"They're all going to run the show. When it goes up on stage, the producers and directors, we all sit back and watch," she said. That includes complicated technical aspects of the production, with seventh- and eighth-graders running lights and soundboards for each performance.

The hope is to breed a devotion to the arts in middle school students and give them full responsibility for keeping up with rehearsal and production commitments, producers said.

"It's a different animal than, say, other theater productions that go on in this town, and the purpose is different. Ours is the whole child and the whole event," Churchill said.

Evidence of that development can be seen in the show's technical director, Steamboat native Carter Dunham. After getting his start acting as a pirate in a sixth-grade production of "Peter Pan," Dunham got hooked on technical theater, and spent time in New York working for Electronic Theatre Controls, one of the world's largest manufacturers of theatrical lighting equipment.

"It's where I got my start, and the kids are really fun to work with," Dunham said of continuing his work with middle school theater shows. "And they're good productions. They do a good job with it. It's nice to be able to give back to everything I got out of it."

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