Lastweek, I had the opportunity to play the role of Dorothy in the iconic musical "The Wizard of Oz." I performed as part of Elevate, the theatre ministry at Chapelstreet Church that has had an incredible impact on me throughout my high school years. Over the course of the show, I got to don a pair of ruby slippers, skip down a yellow brick road, and even melt a wicked witch. However, I also learned valuable lessons about myself and life while putting this production together, and ultimately, those lessons were the most meaningful part of the experience.
Several years ago, the possibility of playing a role like Dorothy would have been far beyond what I ever could have imagined. I’m not a stereotypical theater kid in the sense that I’m not particularly bold or extroverted, and it has taken me a long time to become truly comfortable on stage. Yet when I look at myself now, I can see just how far I’ve come, and my confidence as a performer has increased remarkably. It’s almost like the ruby slippers in "Wizard of Oz" – Dorothy had the power to fulfill her deepest desire all along, but before she could use it, she had to go on a journey to learn how. Being part of this musical was a journey in its own right, and just like my character, the process truly helped me grow as a person and performer.
However, I’ve also learned that sometimes, the journey doesn’t matter as much as the people you take it with. It’s impossible to picture Dorothy without a charming Scarecrow, a loyal Tin Man, a kindhearted Lion, and, of course, a treasured Toto by her side. Likewise, I can’t imagine my own "Wizard of Oz" experience without the other wonderful people who were part of the show with me. I’m thankful for my cast members, who were truly a second family to me and brought genuine joy to every rehearsal. I’m thankful for my directors, who never stopped believing in me and pushed me to do my best in every possible way. I’m thankful for the audience members, especially my wonderful family, whose support gave me all the courage I needed to perform. This production would not have been what it was without all the people who put their heart and soul into it, and I’ve learned that incredible things can happen when a group of individuals combine their skills and passions and work together.
At its heart, "Wizard of Oz" is a story about finding – something we traditionally associate with being comfortable, protected and valued. For Dorothy, that home is a simple Kansas farm, whereher Uncle Henry, Auntie Em and beloved Toto remind her that she is safe and loved. Over the course of this show, I’ve learned that home is not necessarily a physical location as much as a feeling of being safe and accepted. My Elevate family has always felt like home to me. It’s a community where I can be myself, grow in my confidence and abilities and form friendships that will last long after the curtain closes. This show was bittersweet, because as a senior in high school, I’m in my last year of eligibility for these productions. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect note to end on though, and I will cherish the memories from this show forever.
I’m so grateful for everything I learned while traveling along the yellow brick road, and I can’t wait to see what other theatrical experiences await me in the future. One thing is for certain: wherever my love of the stage takes me, there really is no place like the home I found in Elevate.
Emma Chrusciel is a senior at Geneva High School. In addition to writing, she loves Broadway musicals, playing piano, and spending time with her family and friends. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.