Little Miami High School Blog

Q & A with 'Wizard of Oz' director Ken Lydy

Posted on: March 5, 2017

There are just a few short weeks before Little Miami High School’s production of “The Wizard of Oz” hits the stage on April 7, 8 and 9. We caught up with director Ken Lydy to ask about the cast, the crew and lions and tigers and bears!

Q: The Wizard of Oz is a movie classic. What might people see during the play that is similar and/or different from the 1939 film?

A. There are very few people who have not watched the classic MGM film. So as directors and actors we need to preserve what audiences come to know and love. However, unless people are familiar with stage productions there will be a few surprises for them. The one major difference is the musical number "Jitterbug." It was not in the original film, but is in many stage productions. It is a wonderful musical piece with some intricate dancing. Some of the costumes may look a bit different from the movie, but we wanted to make sure this production also had our personal touch to it as well. Even though "The Wizard of Oz" seems like a fairly simple show, it is complex in many different ways. We need to transport audiences from Kansas, to Munchkinland, to the Emerald City, a witch’s castle and more. It will definitely be a fun show for both audiences and cast and crew members.

Q: You have lots of munchkins running around! How did you decide to include middle school students in the production, and how has it been working with them?

A. We actually decided pretty early in the process to include fifth and sixth grade kids. My wife and I have over 17 years of children’s theatre experience so we are well aware of what kids are capable of at certain ages. We’ve worked with ages 5 to 45 in the Kids and Company program. We knew we needed smaller actors to portray Munchkins. It was almost a no brainer. Those 20 munchkins bring a much-needed energy to the stage. They are always smiling and are having a great time singing and dancing on stage. This is also a great way to involve more Little Miami students in the growing theatre program. One of our goals when we came on as directors was to include more students, increase involvement, and generate a greater interest in theatre and the fine arts. Our first production we have about 30 students audition with about 5 of those being male. For our Wizard of Oz auditions we had over 100 students (40 middle schoolers) audition and about 20 male students. So we are definitely drawing interest. The other unique thing is a large part of the cast are freshmen or sophomores. So by getting students involved earlier, we hope they will stay involved and will be even more excited when they get to the high school. 

Q: Talk about the students who have been working on your crew. They work behind the scenes, but they are as critical to the production as the actors are, right?

A. What I tell our actors and our crew every production is we can’t do a show without the crew. The actors are on stage creating the magic of live theatre, but the crew members are the ones who make the magic happen. The crew also come in to work on the set. They help build, paint and get things ready so the actors have things to use during the production. The students on the crew take great pride in the work they do. They take pleasure in knowing their work is the reason the show is successful. Not everyone is cut out for crew work. The nice thing is for some of our crew members, this is their second or third show. So they know the stress involved with pulling off a production. 

Actors will do a scene or two and then get a small break before their next scene. Crew members rarely get a break because shows are constantly in motion. Once a scene change is complete they are then moving into position for the next one. They have to be alert and on their game. Our student stage manager is a key component to the success of the crew as well. Rachel Boyle, our stage manager, will be in charge of many of the technical aspects of the production during tech week and the run of the show. We try to make crew work as much of a learning experience as possible as well. Without actual theatre courses at Little Miami my wife and I try to take time, when we can, to educate students while getting the work done. From how to use a tape measure and ratchet set, to painting techniques students learn valuable skills in how a theater operates. 

Q: This is your second year leading the drama program at Little Miami. What have you learned in those two years and what is your impression of the students who come out for your plays? 

A. My wife Tara and I are very excited to be working with the students. We are impressed with the level of talent Little Miami students have. We love working with the students here. They are willing and eager to learn. We try to expose them to other high schools theatre programs to see what other area schools do. Over the past two years we’ve watched Oklahoma at Lebanon, and The Little Mermaid at Wilmington. Recently a handful of our cast went to Mt. Notre Dame to watch fellow cast member Matthew Perelman in the lead role of Macbeth. This is another example of how supportive the students are of each other.