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Young director brings Wizard of Oz to Oakridge this weekend

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It’s just past 8:00 am and Kole Topham has already started his very busy day. We met at Lion Mountain Bakery which, besides having yummy food, is the site of the performance he will be directing October 29th and 30th, The Wizard of Oz. After the morning interview, Kole will go on to the Academy of Arts and Academics in Springfield where he is a freshman.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE WIZARD OF OZ, HAD YOU CONSIDERED ANY OTHER PLAYS? “I’ve been looking for a fall play,

ever since The Christmas Carol last year. Because I wanted to do two plays this year, a Christmas Carol, and then one sometime in the summer or fall. I actually looked at some Shakespeare plays, I picked up random one-act play books… But nothing came to mind, nothing caught my eye, that gave me that exciting feeling that you get when you’re like, okay, this is happening.”

HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHAT TO ADAPT FROM THE BOOK?
“I try to go with the meaning of what the author of the book wanted to share with us. It’s not my work, it’s their work. And while some people create spin-offs and they are really cool, I personally could not create a spin-off because then I would feel like I am cheating off their work. If I am going to adapt something from someone’s else’s work, I read it, I look at what they were intending to say, what their message was to the world, and then I try to capture that in my script.”

HOW MUCH DID YOU ADHERE TO THE FRANK BAUM VERSION OF THE WIZARD OF OZ?
“I would say the script is pretty dang close to the book, but just enough different of an adaptation.” (To avoid copyright infringement).

DID YOU HAVE TO CREATE SCENES THAT ARE NOT IN THE BOOK?
“No, actually, I just change what’s IN the scene. For example, one of the biggest differences that I noticed when reading the book and writing the script, that I had to change just to keep it kid friendly, was when Dorothy, the Tin Woodman, Scarecrow, and Lion were being attacked by the minions of the witch. They are attacked three times, once by crows, once by wolves, and once by bees, and finally, by winged monkeys. In the book, when they are attacked by crows, the Scarecrow breaks all their necks, and when they are attacked by wolves, the Tin Woodman chops off their heads. The bees were actually the most kid-friendly of all the attacks. They stung the Tin Woodman and lost their stingers and they all died. The Tin Woodman was completely fine, because he is made out of tin. (laughs) So what I did, was have the scarecrows come on and scare the party, and then the scarecrow scares the crows away. And then the winged monkeys come on a capture them all. That was just a few of the changes that were big in the book and in the play itself.”

IS THIS PLAY ASSOCIATED WITH ZERO CLEARANCE THEATER? DO THEY GIVE YOU ANY SUPPORT?
“They have been giving me support. They, for one, gave us the stage. (points to the stage inside the Lion Mountain Bakery building). And their director of the board, Loren (Christopher) Michaels, has been mentoring me, which has been really nice to have.”

HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT CASTING FOR THE ROLES? DO YOU HAVE AN AUDITION?
“This year, for the Christmas Carol, we are going to do it a little bit different. We are going to sit down, read through the script once, give everybody 5 minutes to choose who their top couple, um, characters they want to be….and then we have them all come up on stage and act as that person. And then if they are not good for their first favorite, act as their second favorite. And if they don’t get their second favorite role, act as their third favorite.”

DO YOU HAVE ANY BEHIND THE SCENES ROLES IF THEY DON’T WANT TO ACT?
“Yea, we have Director of Props, Director of Costume, we’ve got someone who is the prompter, we’ve got the stage manager, we have the person in charge of curtains, kid wrangler when we’re working with kids.”

HAVE YOU BEEN AN ACTOR?
“I am actually acting in a play right now, from A3, called The Curious Incident of the Dog and the Nighttime, being performed (in November) at the Wildish [Theatre]. ”

DO YOU LIKE ACTING?
“I like all things theater, just getting that experience. I feel like it’s helping me grow, not only as a director, but also as an author. Because now I can see what kind of stress actors are under, but also helps me learn how to explore characters….which helps in my own writing.”

DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVORITE DIRECTORS OR WRITERS?
“I’m a big fan of M. Knight Shyamalan…. really love his thrillers. I also like Christopher….he did the Batman trilogy, the Dark Knight trilogy…..Christopher Knowland. His movies are action packed, but also deliver that thriller kind of feeling, really well.

THE WIZARD OF OZ will be performed inside Lion Mountain Bakery on Saturday, October 29th at 7:00 pm and Sunday, October 30th at 2:00. Cost is $5.00 at the door.

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