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April 28, 2004

'OZ' works some new magic at National Technical Institute for the Deaf

From: Democrat and Chronicle - Rochester,NY,USA - apr 28, 2004

Deaf, hearing students blend in show.

By Greg Livadas Staff writer

(April 28, 2004) — In an imaginary mix of the classic Wizard of Oz and the '70s musical hit The Wiz, the story of Dorothy and her three friends is being played out in dance form this week and next.

Thomas Warfield, director of dance at Rochester Institute of Technology, created OZ, came up with the choreography and is directing the show at RIT's National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

"I've been wanting to do The Wiz for a long time," Warfield said. "It just didn't work out. So I took the stories of The Wiz and The Wizard of Oz and put them together with dance."

Dozens of students from RIT and NTID are in the cast; about half of them are hearing and half are deaf. Also, five students from Rochester School for the Deaf are in the performance, as circus-performing Munchkins.

"It's extremely visual," Warfield said. "In a sense, it's like a ballet."

There are no lyrics in Warfield's OZ, so deaf or hearing audience members will have an equal understanding of the performance without the need for interpretation.

"I think the show would be great for both the deaf and the hearing audience to watch and appreciate," said Kriston Pumphrey, 20, a first-year NTID student who plays Scarecrow. "They could learn a thing or two about how deaf and hearing (people) can work together to make such a great show."

Each of the four friends represents a different dance style, Warfield said. "Dorothy does ballet, the Scarecrow represents jazz dance, the Tin Man represents tap, and the Lion represents hip-hop."

In addition, the Flying Monkeys use in-line skates to zoom around to techno music. And the Wiz performs in what can be compared to a Las Vegas-style show.

Student Geo Kartheiser, 19, of Chicago landed the role of the Wiz.

"I auditioned at the last minute because I figured I should just go out and have fun and see where it leads me," he said.

He said audience members "should come to see the wonderful production because it tells the tale of Dorothy leaving Kansas and following the yellow brick road in a very different perspective, one that will leave the audience with a wide range of emotions."

Amy Bonner, an RIT student who plays Wicked Witch Evamean, leaps around the stage chasing her factory workers. She sits on a giant golden toilet throne, and the workers are supposed to be making plungers.

"Behind my back, they're not working," said Bonner, 21.

Working with an equal mix of hearing and deaf cast members is new to Bonner but not difficult.

"I never had a bilingual dance experience," she said. "I love my friends so much and I think it's a great experience to have."