‘There’s no place like home’: Wizard of Oz message rings true for RA Ovations Drama Club

Published 5:42 pm Friday, May 6, 2022

As of the time of this posting, “The Wizard of Oz” has two remaining showtimes at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 6, and Saturday, May 7, in the Riverside Academy gym. Forty seats have been added to Friday night’s show.

RESERVE — As the RA Ovations Drama Club stages a production of “The Wizard of Oz,” the famous line “There’s no place like home” carries more meaning than ever.

Director Darryl P. Clement said the cast is still feeling the impact of Hurricane Ida. Several are living in trailers after losing their homes, and the St. John Theatre stage that traditionally houses spring productions remains out of commission. But home is more than a physical place.

“I like the message that home is not just a place you live in. It’s the people you surround yourself with; it’s your family,” Clement said.

Some of the senior RA Ovations members were teary-eyed as they prepared to take the stage in the Riverside Academy gymnasium during their final week of high school, drawing the curtains on an important chapter of their lives.

As far as Clement can remember, this is the first year the spring show has been held in the Riverside Academy gym. Creating a makeshift theater stage was a challenge that gave the entire school community a firsthand look at how much work goes into every show.

“The last time we sold this many tickets was when we did Grease almost 10 years ago,” said senior Mason Forsythe, AKA the Cowardly Lion.

Dressing rooms were traded for locker rooms, and theater-style lighting had to be installed along with props. The RA Ovations members put in 12-hour shifts every weekend for the past two months to bring it all together.

River Parish Community Theatre provided equipment and manpower to make the transformation possible, according to senior Andrew Jung, who plays the Tinman.

This year also marks the first time the elementary students are taking the stage along with high schoolers in the spring show. Younger students are playing the role of Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz, and Clement looks forward to watching them grow into the spotlight.

“We are trying to rebuild our theater,” Clement said. “When we shut down for COVID, the arts did not continue, and we lost some of the momentum that we had before.”

Senior Jaycee Bennett was part of the last Wizard of Oz production when she was a fourth grader. Her theater journey has come full-circle, and she loves seeing people of all ages work together toward a common goal.

For several in the group, Riverside Academy is the only home they’ve ever known.

When Forsythe spent five months in a Gonzales hotel following Hurricane Ida, he leaned on the support of his Rebels family.

“Anywhere can be your home if you are surrounded by the people you love and care for,” Forsythe said.

Others joined along the way and were welcomed with open arms.

Gabrielle Treas, who plays Dorothy, transferred to Riverside Academy in the middle of her freshman year.

“The people here were so very accepting. I feel like I was immediately adopted into the family,” Treas said. “A show always binds people together. It creates this friendship that is long-lasting. Especially because of how much more work we’ve put in this year, we’ve all gotten so much closer, which is a blessing.”

Alyssa Haase, new to the school this year, is grateful to have found a group so accepting.

“These people have made me feel the most comfortable I’ve ever felt in my entire life,” she said.

Nicholas Ellis, Haley Millet and Marne’ Pierre also joined the RA Ovations for the first time during senior year. After learning what it means to be part of a full-scale production, they wish they would’ve joined sooner.

This year marked Jung’s second production, though his family has supported the theater program for as long as he can remember.
“It’s been really fun getting used to this environment,” he said. “I also play varsity sports, and I don’t know if it’s because it’s my senior year, but I have never felt this involved or close with the people I have been going to school with.”

The Wizard of Oz RA Ovations 2022 full cast list is as follows:

Dorothy Gale – Gabrielle Treas

Glinda – Jaycee Bennett

Wicked Witch – Kaylee Oubre

Scarecrow/Hunk – Emile Graugnard

Tinman/Hickory – Andrew Jung

Lion/Zeke- Mason Forsythe

Aunt Em- Alexis Bearden

Uncle Henry – Mr. Dimaggio

Elvira Gulch – Alyssa Haase

Emerald City Guard – Taye Drake

Professor Marvel – Mason Meyer

Wizard of Oz – Thomas Mazzella IV

Ensemble- Alexis Bearden, Mr. Dimaggio, Alyssa Haase, Taye Drake, Mason Meyer, Thomas Mazzella IV, Austin Cali, Aimee Duhe, Haley Millet, Payton Williams, Bailey Epperly, Sadie Scholle, Grace Trepagnier, Marne Pierre, Aston Schumacher, Nathaniel Jilles, Nick Ellis, Noah Trepagnier, Sailor Deroche and Chloe Madere.

Munchkins

Mayor of Munchkinland – Nathan Walker

Barrister – Paxton Wheelahan

Coroner – Cory Cenac

Lullaby League – Brinley Roccaforte, Layla Price, Brynnan Melancon, Joanna Fernandez, Kelsey Hoover

Lollipop Guild – Willie Maus, Therin Laiche, Reed DeRoche

School Teachers – Mia Fleetwood, Jaci Scurlock

City Leaders – La’sha Cheneau, Bayli Melancon

Munchkin Ensemble – Alajah Walker, Braylen Billings, Wyatt Daniels, Dari’el Culbreath, Sadie Richard, Madeline Cali