It's an American classic. The story of the Wizard of Oz dates back more than a century. While most everyone is familiar with Dorothy and her heroic skip through a magical land, some may be surprised that the classic has ties to South Dakota.
Frank L. Baum lived in Aberdeen in the late 1800s before writing the original children's story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Many believe Dorothy's home in Kansas is likely based on the conditions of South Dakota in a drought.
This weekend, another blockbuster film based on Baum's fictitious land of Oz is filling theatres across the country, but even in today's technology driven world, it doesn't take special effects to bring the story to life.
Downtown Sioux Falls is a long way from Hollywood, but the dedication these actors and actresses show is none less than those in California. This crew is getting ready for an upcoming performance by the Sioux Empire Community Theatre to be held at the Orpheum Theater.
"It is amazing to perform here. We love to perform here, it just means the world to us to be performing here," Patrick Pope said.
In May, the community theatre will showcase its version of The Wizard of Oz. They'll take to the stage just nine nights, but have already been rehearsing for nearly three weeks.
"It's something that allows us to escape what we do every day and come here as a community and just let the lights go down and just experience something together," Pope said.
"Wizard of Oz is one of those shows, I grew up watching it and so the fact that I now get to be the Wicked Witch and put my own little twist on her is pretty fantastic," Sarah Jennings said.
Patrick Pope and Sarah Jennings both grew up around theatre and say community theatre is a great way to give back. They add that when it comes to Oz, there's something extra special, even for the wicked witch.
"While some would say I was typecast as the part, I get to be, kind of, this evil lady. Once I walk through these doors every night which is sort of fun. I get out some of my aggressions that I can't do other places during the day," Jennings said.
Hollywood's latest take on Oz is full of special effects and is raking in millions of dollars at the box office. This version is a bit more modest, but will include some flying and the directors are taking some liberties.
"We want people to come down here and be thrilled that we did justice to an amazing story that we all know, also want to have it be unique and for folks to walk away and think, wow, I can't believe they did that, it's really cool," Jennings said.
But perhaps what will make this production shine is in the enthusiasm and commitment by those involved. Despite weeks of work, they're not here to get paid or win awards.
"We all do it because we love it. We're all volunteers and I think that is what is really special about community theatre is it is a lot of volunteers and we come down here, we all have day jobs but we come down here and do what we love and get a break from the real world, so to speak," Jennings said.
For right now, there is absolutely nothing on the stage of the Orpheum Theater. They must still create the entire set and they'll do so by hand. But, by the time audiences are walk in, it will be transformed into a wonderful, magical land.
We'll have over 100 volunteers working, pretty much around the clock to make sure that we make everything happen in the time we have. As we get closer, it just compacts upon itself and all of the moving parts that need to take place to ensure a successful run is just mind boggling," Pope said.
Tickets for the upcoming The Wizard of Oz performances will be available in late April with the curtain going up on the show on May third. More volunteer help is always welcome.