‘The Wiz’ play a way to showcase Preston talent

Sat, Oct 29: A couple dozen actors from the Preston and Dartmouth communities got their “Wiz” on today. A local theatre group is collaborating with an American group to bring an adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz” to life. As Steve Silva reports, the hope is that this will help lead to something bigger.

A local theatre group is partnering with an American theatre program to bring The Wiz, an adaption of The Wizard of Oz, to life next month.

“In our community, our marginalized community of the Preston area, everybody always says there’s a ton, a ton, a ton, of talent. We don’t get a lot of opportunity in the mainstream to showcase that talent,” said Tara Taylor, a producer and actor in the production.

Taylor and the rest of the troupe rehearsed the play on Saturday at the former site of the City Heights Church on Main Street near Riley Road.

Global News is one of the sponsors of the production.

Actor Samuel Provo-Benoit, who is from North Preston, said many people of current and past generations in the area didn’t have adequate access to education.

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“All they had was singing, dancing, their faith, and church, so this let’s us tell our story through The Wiz,” he said.

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The Charles Taylor Theatre & Media Arts Association has partnered with Broadway in the Hood, an organization based in the United States, for the play.

The groups have created an exchange program in which actors will get to perform together in both countries in the future.

“The talent here is beautiful. It’s raw, it is absolutely something amazing,” said Torrey Russell, the director of the play and founder of Broadway in the Hood.

The play is known for normally having an all-black cast, though the current production has a white woman playing Dorothy, the lead character.

“It’s all about understanding that it’s 2016,” said Russell.

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“In a world that we’re dealing with the wonderful movement of Black Lives Matter, it is so great to know that we can not only say that black lives matter but that all lives matter, and that, in this struggle and in this fight, we all understand that the best person should get the job.”

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READ MORE: Cirque du Soleil to help bring ‘The Wiz’ to TV, Broadway

Taylor said that one main goal is to establish a professional theatre in the area to provide an outlet for Preston and nearby communities.

Provo-Benoit said he’s looking forward to challenging himself in his role as the title character in the production.

“I’m not a mean person, but when I get the chance to yell at someone, I grab that by the horns. I’m very pleased to play the Wiz and also show my flexibility in my acting. One moment, I’m mean, the next moment I’m the sweetest little old Wiz,” he said with a laugh.

The play will be performed on Nov. 20 at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium in the Dalhousie Arts Centre.

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