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At Penn Hills High School, 'Oz' will be 'trashy'

Patrick Varine
| Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Kala Lorey wants your trash. But only certain pieces of it.

Lorey, the drama and music director at Penn Hills High School, will help her students put on “The Wiz” as the high-school musical this spring, and this year's musical budget has spawned some creative ideas for augmenting the set.

“We went online and saw this pieces made all out of (toilet) plungers,” Lorey said. “So we decided, what if we made parts of the set out of ‘garbage art'?”

Lorey and fellow director Claire Davidson are soliciting donations of specific types of trash — see the breakout box for a list — to create features that will be part of the set for “The Wiz,” the musical adapted from the 1978 film, an urbanized retelling of “The Wizard of Oz” which starred an all-black cast featuring Diana Ross in the role of Dorothy. Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell and Richard Pryor also had roles in the film version.

While there are two traditional set-pieces that will be built, the majority of the musical set will be made from recycled materials, such as Dorothy's home in Kansas, which will be built from wood from warehouse pallets.

“A lot of (directors) do this show really dark, with metallic set-pieces,” Lorey said. “We wanted to keep that metallic, wasteland feel, but in a different way.”

The idea for the recycled set was partly one of necessity.

“This year, we're putting more of our budget into our lighting system,” Lorey said. “I went online and came up with some cool ideas (to save money on the set). That's how the recycled-art idea came about.”

Davidson said the high school's version would update the film's urban aesthetic in its costume design and overall feel.

“We've modernized parts of the musical to adapt it for a more hip-hop feel,” Davidson said.

That plan will carry over to the choreography as well, and among the many volunteers is a student who will tag the sets with graffiti art.

Lorey and Davidson are also putting into practice lessons they learned from their first year in a brand-new performance space.

“The sound is so much better,” Lorey said.

Davidson added that they will make more use of the in-house projector which was used for a scene in last year's musical, “All Shook Up.”

“It worked really well, so we're going to use it for more things this year with our scrim curtain,” she said.

Lorey said she is excited to get to work on the sets.

“We're making beautiful things out of ugly materials,” she said.

“The Wiz” will run April 25 to 27 and May 2 and 3 in the Thomas Bond Auditorium at Penn Hills High School, where donations of recycled material can also be dropped off.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media.

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