Theatre group to perform "Oz!"

   MONROE — Monroe Township Public Library will be transformed into L. Frank Baum’s magical land of Oz Saturday.

By: Chinenye Okparanta
   MONROE — Monroe Township Public Library will be transformed into L. Frank Baum’s magical land of Oz Saturday when a local theater group stages an interactive version of the classic children’s story.
   Youth Stages, a Princeton-based arts-in-education organization and theater group, will be performing "Oz!" in a two-actor production that includes audience participation to make "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" story come alive for youngsters.
   "This version is much shorter," said Leah Wagner, assistant director at the library. "There are (two) actors so they play different parts."
   The show is part of a winter series of performances at the library that Ms. Wagner said she calls Saturday specials.
   "This is the second year we’re doing it," she said. "We try to do it once a month during the winter months. And the show is for children ages 4 and up."
   Set in 1899, the show focuses on L. Frank Baum, author of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" as he puts the finishing touches on his new manuscript. Mr. Baum tries telling his new story to a 10-year-old girl, Dot, but the story doesn’t capture her interest, so Mr. Baum decides to act out the drama.
   Youth Stages’ version of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" plays up the comedy of the original story as Mr. Baum uses furniture, houseplants, fireplace tools and other household items to build the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion.
   "The wonderment of the show is that while L. Frank Baum is trying to impress Dot, he creates the characters from objects and it’s really interesting to watch that," said Jean Praol Rosolino, founder of Youth Stages. "Those objects are manipulated as puppets throughout the rest of the show."
   Dot is more and more enthralled as the story comes to life before her eyes, and the two-member cast is hoping to appeal to its audience in a ssimilar way. "The show is interactive," Ms. Rosolino said. "The audience assists (Mr. Baum) in getting Dot involved in the story."
   The audience will be making the sounds for the tornado and also making the sounds of the jungle when it’s spooky, she said. There is still space available for children or parents interested in seeing the show, Ms. Wagner said.
   "Oz!" is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday. Call Ms. Wagner at (732) 521-5000 to reserve a space.