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Crow-Luther Cultural Events Center’s Summer Children’s Theater Delights Community with "The Wizard of Oz"

By Raina Lucero

July 10, 2024

In a brilliant showcase of community spirit and youthful talent, the Crow Luther Cultural Events Center’s third annual summer children’s theater transported audiences to the magical Land of Oz with their enchanting rendition of The Wizard of Oz.

With rave reviews, this year’s production held special significance as the volunteer board of directors at the Crow-Luther Cultural Events Center decided to forgo the traditional Maine Street Bash, choosing instead to focus their efforts and resources on supporting the creative talent of the youth in the community by sponsoring and securing additional sponsorships for this full-scale production.

Under the skillful direction of Merena Lowe a local thespian, her co-director Calen Hoffman, young actors from across the community from 1st to 12th grade brought L. Frank Baum’s beloved tale to life with two captivating performances on Friday, July 5th.

The story of Dorothy, swept away from her home in Kansas by a tornado and landing in the fantastical Land of Oz, resonated with audiences of all ages. Guided by the Good Witch of the North and the Munchkins, Dorothy’s journey on the yellow brick road to find the Wizard of Oz was filled with magic, adventure, and valuable life lessons about friendship, courage, and the importance of home.

Dorothy, played by Itzi Ramirez and Yuki Halverson-Brooks, embodied the character’s innocence and determination beautifully. Each brought their unique interpretation to the role, ensuring that every audience member connected with Dorothy’s quest to return home. Charlie Prince, as Toto, added a delightful charm to the performance, perfectly capturing the loyalty and bravery of Dorothy’s canine companion. His funny antics set the crowd into a hushed giggle, adding a layer of joy to the production.

The journey on the yellow brick road introduced a trio of unforgettable characters. Charleigh Lowe’s Scarecrow was endearingly clumsy yet wise, delivering a performance that was both humorous and heartfelt. Garren Wollert’s Cowardly Lion provided a perfect mix of humor and pathos, while Brasen Wollert’s Tin-Man, longing for a heart, brought an emotional element to the play. Together, they formed a compelling ensemble that highlighted the power of friendship and mutual support.

Dekoda Lowe as the Wizard of Oz added an element of mystery and authority, while Brystal Bletzacker’s portrayal of Glenda the Good Witch was enchanting and reassuring. Ash Specht’s Wicked Witch of the West brought the perfect amount of villainy to the stage, eliciting gasps and cheers from the audience.

The journey through the Land of Oz was enriched by a diverse ensemble of supporting characters, each bringing their own flair to the stage. Supporting cast members include Jace Rouse as the Gate Keeper and a group of talented Munchkins played by Halli Thompson, Autumn Lowe, and Gracie Lynch, added layers of charm and whimsy to the production.

Bay Rouse and Ramona Rouse charmed as the Woody Tree and Shady Tree, adding a whimsical touch to the enchanted forest scenes. Waylon Eikenberg, Brody Eikenberg, and Isaiah Rouse brought mischievous energy to their roles as Monkey Rascal, Monkey Chip, and Monkey Scamp respectively, while also doubling as narrators with Isaiah Rouse taking on the additional role of the Red Narrator.

Reona Eikenberg and Miranda Keplar portrayed Aunt Em and Uncle Henry with warmth, grounding Dorothy’s story in the familiar comforts of home. Their versatility shone through as they seamlessly transitioned into the roles of Green Narrator and Yellow Narrator, guiding the audience through Oz’s many wonders.

River and Amelie Brown captivated as Orange Narrator 1 and Orange Narrator 2, infusing their characters with vibrant energy and enthusiasm. Nigen Wilson and Henry Bell, the youngest of the cast, rounded out the narration team with their roles as Light Blue Narrator 1 and Light Blue Narrator 2.

Each member of the supporting cast contributed to the magical tapestry of “The Wizard of Oz,” enriching the audience’s experience with their talent and dedication. Their performances, alongside the main cast and crew, were instrumental in bringing this beloved tale to life on the stage of the Crow-Luther Cultural Events Center.

The production’s success was not only due to the performers but also to the hard work and dedication of the behind-the-scenes crew. Fred and Debi Derby’s imaginative set design transported audiences to the vibrant and fantastical world of Oz. Lisa Walsh’s colorful costuming brought each character to life with stunning detail, while Colin Prince’s expert sound effects and Marty Miller’s lighting design created a captivating auditory and visual experience. Claire Prince, as the board representative, ensured that every element of the production ran smoothly.

A production of this scale and quality was made possible by the unwavering support of the community. The generous contributions of sponsors played a crucial role in bringing “The Wizard of Oz” to the stage. A-1 Rental, Performance Automotive, Sean Oquist Chiropractic, Davinci Physical Therapy, Peterson-Farm Bureau Insurance, 719 Metal Works, Eads Auto Supply/NAPA, GN-Bank, Saffer Spray Service, Golden Plains Insurance, Lamar Library, Salvation Army, Eads Senior Citizens, Wollert Family, Linda Trosper, Denise Nelson, Kiowa County Central Recreation District, Kiowa County Public Library District, CWC Rail, Kiowa County Independent, and the Crow-Luther Cultural Events Center all provided invaluable support.

Special thanks were extended to Linda Trosper, Denise Nelson, and the Wollert family for their extraordinary contributions. Additionally, many women from local churches came together to provide snacks for the young actors during rehearsals, ensuring they had the energy to perform their best. The dedication and generosity of these individuals and organizations exemplified the spirit of community that made this production so special.

Volunteers also played a vital role in the success of the play. Deborah Gooden, Sarah Ausmus, Claire Prince, Teri Jobe, Tim Jobe, Briana Prentice, and Brenda Stoker all donated their time and resources to ensure that every aspect of the production was top-notch. Their efforts, along with those of the board members at the Crow-Luther Cultural Events Center, highlighted the incredible community spirit that is the heart of Eads.

The third annual summer children’s theater production of “The Wizard of Oz” was more than just a play; it was a celebration of community, creativity, and the power of coming together to create something beautiful. As the curtains closed on another successful year, the Crow-Luther Cultural Events Center looks forward to continuing its tradition of nurturing young talent and bringing joy to the community through the magic of theater.

In lieu of the Maine Street Bash, the decision to focus on the children’s theater production highlights the board’s commitment to fostering local talent and providing enriching experiences for the youth. This choice was met with overwhelming support from the community, demonstrating the shared value placed on arts and education in Eads. The production of “The Wizard of Oz” stands as a testament to the incredible things that can be achieved when a community unites with a common purpose.

The talented cast, dedicated crew, generous sponsors, and hardworking volunteers all contributed to an unforgettable experience that will be cherished by all who participated and attended. With such a strong foundation of support and talent, the future of the Crow-Luther Cultural Events Center’s summer children’s theater looks brighter than ever.

All photos are by Andrea Buller.

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