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More than 100 performers will open 'The Wizard of Oz' at Tallahassee’s Young Actors Theatre this weekend

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Paul Allison Photography
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Young Actors Theatre
Olivia Bahmer (left) is Glinda and Ansley Tamplin is Dorothy in 'The Wizard of Oz' at Young Actors Theatre

It’s a new era at Young Actors Theatre, known affectionately as YAT.

The big pink building in midtown Tallahassee is welcoming back a full roster of performers and audiences for the next two weekends - with Friday’s opening of The Wizard of Oz.

“Coming back for the whole Company, it was just like a really big community feeling that I missed a lot,” says 17-year-old Olivia Bahmer, a senior at Chiles High School. She’s playing Glinda. “You've worked super hard for two months with this big group of people that you get really close with. Then to have an audience laugh at your jokes or for them to stand up and clap at the end of the show, it's really validating.”

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Paul Allison Photography
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Young Actors Theatre
Chiles senior Olivia Bahmer stars as Glinda in YAT's 'The Wizard of Oz'

After 7 years on the YAT stage, Bahmer is hoping to study vocal performance at FSU next year. For now, she’s embracing the first production in two years that features YAT’s entire Company. That’s an audition-based group of more than a hundred 4th through 12th graders.

You think of 2020 and you think of quarantine and stuff. I think I'll always think of The Wizard of Oz as the show where everything was kind of starting to go back to normal,” Bahmer says. “The big theme of it is the whole ‘there's no place like home’ at the end of the show, and it's true because we all really missed being here together. It's a really big symbol for all of us coming back together and being able to be in the show together. “

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Young Actors Theatre
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The author played Glinda during YAT's first production of 'The Wizard of Oz' in 1984.

YAT has done this show several times over the years. Full disclosure: the first time was in the 1980s when the author of this story got to play Glinda. The show’s director, Natalie Futrell, played Aunt Em as a student in the 2010 production.

“I came up with the thought that our season should be titled ‘Home Again’ starting with The Wizard of Oz,” says Futrell. “The last line is ‘there's no place like home,’ and that's very personal to me because I grew up here at Young Actors, and I've seen these kids for the past two years have to go through not being able to perform in Mainstage shows. It's very personal that they are all able to be involved and to be together and to look up to each other and just perform and have the time of their lives on the stage.”

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Young Actors Theatre
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Natalie Futrell (right), YAT's Education Director and the director of 'The Wizard of Oz,' played the role of Aunt Em when she was a student at YAT in 2010.

The new season of shows also represents a homecoming for two Tallahassee natives. Sarah Doolin Roy recently took over as YAT Executive Director. She is the niece of YAT Founder Tina Williams and previously served as a director at NYC’s American Ballet Theatre. J. Scott Handley is the company's new Artistic Director. He comes from Broadway Method Academy in Connecticut -- the nonprofit musical theater conservatory he founded.

The Wizard of Oz features lighting and sound by Broadway designers Curtis Shields and Daniel Bria. Musical direction is by Allison Grimes, and choreography is by FSU MFA Candidate Calypso May Haddad.

Dorothy, her real live dog Toto, and all your favorite characters from the yellow brick road will be onstage at YAT on select dates from November 12th through November 21st. A special abbreviated matinee designed for young children will be presented November 20th. Click here for dates, show times, and ticket information.