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Production company brings ‘The Wiz’ back to the stage

The dancers have been putting in countless hours of practice in preparation for opening night.

Production company brings ‘The Wiz’ back to the stage
July 29
13:21 2020

“The Wiz” has been one of the most beloved plays in the African American culture since the 1970s. As an adaptation of the “Wizard of Oz,” it has been made into a movie, Broadway play and a live TV production. Coming this August, fans will have the opportunity to see the play once again right here in Winston-Salem.

The Royal Curtain Drama Guild, led by Stephanie Barber Hurt, will bring the play to Salem Chapel, formerly the Arts Council of Winston Salem Theater and once home to the N.C. Black Repertory Company. The play will debut on August 12 and will include five shows during its four-day run.

Hurt, who played Dorothy in a rendition of “The Wiz” in 1983 under the direction of Mable Robinson with the Little Theater, will now come full circle and take her turn as director of the play. Over the past thirty years, people routinely would ask Hurt when she was going to bring the play back again. 

“My mom passed in 2015 and the last thing she said to me was ‘you have to finish your program’,” Hurt said about what pushed her to begin working on the play. “In 2016, it was on my spirit and I have been doing plays with my production company since 2010, but I never thought to do “The Wiz” again because I knew that is a hard act to follow.

“I knew it would be a big task to take on, so when it hit me a couple of years ago, I said I was going to do it. Last year I got up enough gumption to reach out to several of my people and asked if I did the show again, would they want to be a part of it. I have seen several people do adaptations, but not the real Broadway stage play that Stephanie Mills did in 1973.”

Hurt said she received all of the responses she needed back in December of 2019 and finally decided she was going to do it. She then spoke with Robinson about consulting on the play and she agreed to assist.

After three weeks of full practice, Hurt says she has really seen the cast develop and progress during that time. She says it has been a pleasure to see everyone working so hard to see their dream come true.

Hurt wanted to emphasize their strict social distancing guidelines during the play. She says even though the theater seats 500, they will only allow 200 people per show.

“We are mindful that you have to have your mask on, we are mindful of handwashing, and we are mindful of social distancing,” she said. “The auditorium is set up in a manner that people can sit and not feel like someone is on top of them.”

Even though it is getting close to opening night, Hurt says she does not feel any nervousness about the performance.

“I don’t have any room to worry, because things are just falling into place,” she said.  

The collaboration with Salem Chapel was a unique set of circumstance, said Hurt. Hurt said she initially came to the church to gain information about who they were since they had just bought the building less than a year ago. Through a conversation with the pastor, a partnership was formed, and her production company has been performing there since early 2019.

“I happened to roll up in the parking lot one day and knocked on the door, not because I wanted to know about theater, but wanted to know what kind of church they were,” she said about her first contact with Salem Chapel. “I was going to get gas, but the Lord led me here. At that moment I heard God say, ‘I’m opening a door’ and I was really grateful.”

Hurt is very thankful for the support staff she has with her. She said she does not have to do anything but direct, since her team has done everything she has asked of them up to this point.

Hurt envisions that she will shed a few tears on opening night. She said she shed tears at the end of the play when she played Dorothy, so she knows the tears will flow once again at the end of the show.

“I am probably going to think about the accomplishment and my mom,” she said tearfully. “When we did the show in 1983, we were supposed to do five nights, but we ended up doing nine because of the overwhelming response and my mother was there every night. I feel like a lot of it is going to do with her words to me which were ‘finish your program.’ I think this is a part of the program I needed to finish.”

Hurt plans to make The Wiz the summer program for her production company. She wants to give young actors an opportunity to perform on stage and live out their dream.

For ticket information on the play, please visit www.rcdgproductions.com and click the Eventbrite link.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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