We Welcome You to Munchkinland—Elisabeth Gray Engle on Directing This Summer’s Children’s Musical The Wizard of Oz


Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh My!

Sixty-five children of all different ages from the Columbia area came together this summer to bring you the youth edition of a beloved classic, The Wizard of Oz through Workshop Theatre.

“We are very excited to be doing The Wizard of Oz this summer! There are so many magical elements to this show already, so that is really fun to explore. But the real magical feeling comes from the cast members. We have a very large cast of kids of varying ages and schools who come together to create this show. They form bonds and friendships, and the excitement and energy that they bring to rehearsal is the real magic of the show,” director Elisabeth Gray Engle says.

The range of experience and ages might often lead to complications in the directing process, but Engle uses each child’s unique talents and personalities to create their own interpretation of such a well-known show.

“…Many of our roles are double cast, so there are two actors who alternate the role. This is really fun because you get to watch these two young actors create two very different characters from the same material,” Engle explains. “So much of the humor of our production has come from the actors, and I think that is what makes our production unique. We have a very talented group of kids who each bring something different to their characters.”

While the 4 to 18-year-olds bring a lot to the theatrical table, the production team has also put their own spin on things. With people like Alexis Doktor doing costumes and Baxter Engle doing set, the wonderful land of Oz is sure to excited audiences aesthetically.

“I cannot say enough good things about our Oz Team. Katie Hilliger (Choreographer), Jordan Harper (Musical Director), Jeni McCaughan (Producer), Braxton Crewell (Stage Manager), just to name a few, make this experience so positive and meaningful for our kids. We have high expectations for our cast, but we have a lot of fun along the way,” Engle affirms.

Engle, herself, is no stranger to the stage or directing. She is a company member at Trustus Theatre where she has taught, performed, and will be seen next in the world premiere of Big City. On top of all that, this is Engle’s 5th summer production through Workshop, her 11th year directing youth theatre, and she continues to teach theatre at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School.

“I love working with kids in the summer because it is such a joyous time of year in their lives. The summer musical is different than a school musical or a show during the year because the kids (and adults!) have that special energy that can only exist during the summer,” Engle elaborates. “…They come together during the summer to create this show, so that [in] itself sets the experience apart from school year productions. It’s really exciting to see so many kids from so many different schools who love musical theatre come together. They get along so well, and they love being with ‘their people.’”

The show runs June 25 through June 28, with both evening and matinee performances at the Heathwood Hall Episcopal School auditorium. Go to workshop.palmettoticketing.com for times and tickets!

“Theatre always has a unique way of bringing people together, and we have certainly seen that this summer with our cast,” Engle endearingly states. “Our cast is made up of kids from varying backgrounds, schools, locations, and experiences, and we have loved seeing them come together to create art.”

By Haley Sprankle