Let’s Ease on Down the Road with The WizCH

What to do in a world where there is no theatre? Or at least where it pauses. The short answer is simple. We adapt. Thespians, directors, dancers, lighting designers, production managers, etc etc are eager to hit the stage and bring art to life once again, but that’s quite difficult at the time being. So what do creatives do? Become creative. Creatives all around are working diligently to still create art. Yes, it’s a tad bit different from what the 21st century is used to but they’re creating, nonetheless. From the increase of virtual shows and readings to a revival of audio theater (reference radio shows), theatre professionals are proving that they are still relevant. This comes with utilizing every platform available, like the Clubhouse app for Apple users. 

And this March, Clubhouse users can expect one production to take advantage of the shift in performance life. Following suit of The Lion King audio performance, The Wiz is now taking center stage. I had the privilege to speak with the director and cast. Check out the interview below. 

Ashley Shaunte Is there a difference between this production being on an app, Club House, and the typical voiceover performances that we are used to? 

Talia Moore “The short answer is, No, there is no difference! Audio theater is likened to listening to live radio. You are forced to use your imagination and see the scenes happening in your mind. The best thing about having sound only is that you can provide a purely live experience while having other things pre-recorded [ like the background soundtrack ]. Everything comes together as if you were listening to a live Broadway production.” 

Ashley Shaunte Do you think people would be receptive to this audio production given that The Wiz is such a huge production in a sense of honor and art? 

Talia Moore “Clubhouse Theater has quickly created its own culture in a sense where people understand the visual and audio expectations and restrictions. Taking environmental conditions into consideration, our team has crafted a fully integrated “PTR Experience” that will allow those attending the show to be fully immersed in the experience. We have crafted the best experience possible, given the visual restrictions. We want each person who sees the show to walk away saying …Wow, that was amazing!” 

Ashley Shaunte What is the process like when creating an audio production? 

Talia Moore “The process of creating an audio production is challenging because it’s brand new. We are pioneering the “How To” groundwork needed to make audio theatrical productions possible. The most difficult part of the production is making sure the soundtrack and spoken voice-overs match up correctly. Clubhouse is a new App, so there are still slight sound distortions if connections drop or the platform glitches. We are grateful that Clubhouse Theater goers understand how that works.” 

Ashley Shaunte Club House is only for Apple users, will there be a way for Android users or even those Apple users who do not use the app to engage in this art form in the future? 

Talia Moore “The short answer is, yes! Our team is vigorously working on possibly live-streaming the production via YouTube & FB Live. We understand there are people outside of Clubhouse who would like to have some level of access to what’s going on. The live streams will only air at 7 pm est during the last show of each night. We are raising funds for Black Theater Girl Magic, so we will have a Donate To Watch Option.”

I then had the privilege of verbally speaking with Yazarah St. James who plays Dorothy along with the Executive Director, Talia Moore, whom you had the privilege of meeting above. 

Yazarah St. James  I identify with The Wiz and with this story because of the idea of finding magic in unforeseen places, believing in yourself, even when it seems impossible to fight the odds, and them to find out after all this time that all you needed, you were carrying on the journey on your own. What an amazing story. That’s Dorothy’s story. But it’s also our story, black folk. Our story is, they told us we couldn’t win. They let the world believe that we were heartless people without courage, without honor. And we were the farthest thing from that. Even in the lowest of circumstances, we become everything that is beautiful. We are the Rosetta Stone for survival. And so when I approached the part of Dorothy, I approach her with all those things on my mind, making sure that people leave feeling better than they came. My cast is incredible. And they take it as seriously as I do to Talia’s leadership and helping us find that perfect spot for finding that perfect life in a way that you guys will be able to receive it because ultimately you can’t see us. But that’s the magic. We get to act. We get to paint pictures. And so when we are in the rehearsals, sometimes I’m in my house standing up with applause at some of the performances that I’m hearing, the chances that we’re taking.

Ashley Shaunte I have never heard an analysis like that before. I have been amazed by The Wiz before; we’ve done it here in Houston so many times. Never heard a character analysis like that. So you have honestly done your homework. One thing that I don’t like is when actors or performers do not do their homework and they put everything on the director, and the director, their leadership is important, but they are not the ones that are performing. So when you do the homework, it is amazing. And I feel like the production is going to be amazing because Talia, as you can see, your Dorothy has done so much work, so I can only imagine what everyone else has been doing.

Talia Moore Oh my goodness. I mean they, they literally engulf themselves into these characters and we literally rehearse endlessly days and days out of the week just to make those character profiles really believable, verbally, you know, touching, complex. I mean, we talk about different levels that we have to go through to just pull things out. And it’s not just about pulling out of character, it’s about pulling them out. It’s about so many things, so many layers that a lot of the actors have been going through over the last year, you know, not being able to touch that stage. Not being able to express themselves through this art and this window in this door of opportunity for audio theater to be open is allowing them to breathe while allowing them to live, allowing them to express themselves, allowing them to clear their minds. So when they’re in these characters, it’s not like they’re just acting this, they’re living this. They’re becoming, you know, the people who they were a year ago, right before Covid, before the doors of the theater closed. And so we take this so seriously on literally every single level. I’m just still enthralled about how Yazarah broke that down. It is so amazing to understand that the level of our production has so many layers, like a big onion. Right. You know, when you’re pulling it back. We have so many different characters, like she said, in so many different levels of performance. 

Ashley Shaunte Performing is my first love, so to be able to see that there are still opportunities to be able to do that and to see that we still adapt is amazing by itself. So one more time, when does The Wiz Clubhouse Production go up?

Yazarah St James March 12 and March 13, 4 pm and 7 pm, Eastern Standard Time. 

You can get more information by visiting the website https://www.thewizch.com/ 

Ashley Gipson

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