Theatre Under The Stars recently introduced to the cast of its upcoming production of The Wiz. Among the ensemble cast members is Davis High School’s Roenia Thompson. She is an assistant director of theater at the campus.
Thompson has been a fan of “anything Oz” since seeing The Wizard of Oz (1939) as a young child. It wasn’t until later in life that she discovered The Wiz (1978).
Over the years, Oz continued to be in her life. As a junior student at Eisenhower High School in 2000, she saw The Wiz at TUTS. That production included performers such as George Faison, whom she would later work with in productions across the country. That same year, Eisenhower HS’ theater department, under the direction of Freddie Buckner, produced The Wiz. Thompson played Aunt Em. Oz would follow her to Prairie View A&M University. Professor C. Lee Turner would have her sing “If You Believe” at various functions.
The actress also formed part of the cast in The Ensemble Theatre’s production in 2009. Ensemble’s production sold out well in advance of its Opening Night performance on June 25. It was originally scheduled to end July 19. However, the demand for tickets was so high the theatre added an additional week of performances through July 26. It too quickly sold out. They ended up extending the show two full weeks than originally planned.
“We were all delighted by the community‘s response to The Wiz,” said Thompson. “I remember that we opened on the day that Michael Jackson died. It became a very emotional experience for all of us who remember him as Scarecrow in the film adaptation.”
Earlier this year, she heard that TUTS was auditioning people for its production of The Wiz. She sang, read and submitted videos. A month went by when she got the call. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Thompson shared that she believes this will be a great experience for her students. She stated they were so excited when they heard the news. Many of her students have never been to a live performance in the local theater scene. Thompson hopes her young thespians will see that the skills they are learning now in high school theater are the same ones used in a professional setting such as TUTS.
“I hope that by seeing me in this production that they come away with several lessons,” said Thompson. “They have to go for it if they want it. If they train hard, perform with excellence and listen to the experts, they too can establish a path to work in the theater industry.
“They must believe they are magical and can do anything because of it.”
This will be Thompson’s first production at TUTS. She recently wrapped up starring in the Ensemble Theater’s production of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. In 2017, she performed in It Ain’t Nothing But the Blues at The Queensbury Theatre. Roshunda Jones directed the production, which received the Houston Press’ Theater Award for Best Cabaret (click here). Jones is the theater director at Carver High School for Engineering, Applied Technology and the Arts.
Thompson added that she wrote the Soul of the 70’s musical production performed by students in 2017, at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.
Rehearsals for The Wiz (click) began a few weeks ago. This year marks 40 years since The Wiz came out in theaters. It is not the only one celebrating. TUTS is currently in its 50th season.
The Wiz will run October 23 through November 4 at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are available online (click), or by contacting the TUTS Box Office by phone at (713) 558-8887 or in person by visiting the Box Office located at 800 Bagby Street.
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