The kid from Kansas can’t take a step toward Oz in “The Wiz” at Alexander Hamilton High School in Elmsford this weekend without the help of three dancers: sophomore Diana Procopis, 7th-grader Alanis Cabrera, and junior Maria Camila Puerta.
They are the Yellow Brick Road, “YBR” for short. (That’s them, inset, from left: Maria, Alanis, Diana.)
They lead Dorothy (sophomore Haleigh Brown) to the Scarecrow (sophomore Ellie Satin), the Tin Man (sophomore Arianna Albino) and that lovably cowardly Lion (senior Christopher Clough). Eventually, the YBR leads to junior Sebastian Bedoya, who plays The Wiz.
“The Wiz” is the Motown spin on the classic L. Frank Baum story of a girl who lands in a far-off land of Oz. There’s no “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” here. The songs are contemporary, but the characters are familiar.
How does one play a road?
Maria, 17, explains: “We have to react to what’s happening to the characters. The lion comes in really strong and we have to be scared.”
Diana and Maria started out as dancers — and shy ones, at that — years ago.
“I prefer dancing way over singing,” says Diana, 16. “But over the years, I got much more comfortable with the whole theater thing. Here, they make it so welcoming. Now, we all have our own solos, which is exciting, because I never knew I was going to sing.”
Theater has made it easier to speak in public, even if it’s the public of her family.
“Even if it’s not a big audience, if it’s my family or if I have to read something in front of a classroom, it’s much easier because I pretend I’m on stage.”
Maria says dance was always “my way of expressing myself,” whether in tap or ballet. Theater became her way to “show what I could do, being on stage, but not really projecting myself.”
After a while, though, something changed for her.
“You get so into it and so entertained and so excited that you push yourself in a way to do it. That’s a huge deal for me, because I’ve always been so closed off, so shy to speak to other people. But you play the role, you get in the mood and you feel really good while you’re doing it. Diana and I have grown so much together.”
Alanis, the 12-year-old 7th-grader, says turning a duet into a trio has been challenging, but the older girls — in a theater tradition — have welcomed her as just another brick in the YBR.
“They’ve been here before and they know everything, how everything rolls,” she says. “But it does help me out to have these two direct me and help me. I like it.”
The girls of the YBR do the same thing, Alanis says, but they still need to be their own character.
“I need to have my own expressions,” she says.
This week, these three different girls will guide another girl who’s looking for her way home, back to Kansas. But they’ve found a home in the auditorium at Alexander Hamilton High School.
“The Wiz”—7 p.m., March 20; 2 and 7 p.m., March 21—$10, $7 students—firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s the Running Lines video I shot at Alexander Hamilton. Enjoy!