Just as spring signals revival, two artforms that originated in the early 1900s are brought into full, colorful life next weekend.
The classic children’s novel “The Wizard of Oz” was written in 1900, while some buildings in Talladega date back to that same era.
“The Wiz,” which will be presented by CAST community theater April 12-15, is a re-imaging of “Wizard.” Homes and churches on tour in “April in Talladega” April 13-14 showcase architecture in Talladega from the county seat’s early days.
“The Wiz” will be presented at the Oxford Performing Arts Center. “It is an urban, cool, hip version of a story which we all know,” director Brian Rothwell said. “Even though ‘The Wizard of Oz’ story is over 100 years old, it’s still as entertaining as the day it premiered.”
The music ranges from R&B to gospel to soulful ballads, according to Rothwell. “The audience will want to join in as Dorothy and her friends ‘Ease on Down the Road’ and see what happens,” he added.
CAST selected this show so that it could accomplish a true community outreach. “The structure of the show takes the audience to many places — some only visited once. That way, the theater could involve many people who have never participated in theater before,” Rothwell said. “In fact, four of the principals are new to CAST.”
The Studio C dance studio will be performing the tornado. CAST Kidz are the Munchkins. Some current and former members of the JSU Marching Southerners color guard will be performing as we meet the Wizard. Another local dance troupe from Crazy About Dance in Alexandria will perform the flying monkeys. “A host of singers from all over the area fill out our pit chorus,” Rothwell said.
The cast includes:
Aunt Em: Mary Stell
Dorothy: Eureka Bonds
Addapearl: Taylor Finch
Scarecrow: Levi Thompson
Tin Man: Jason Wright
Lion: Stephonn Ammons
The Wiz: Jonathan Stringer
Evileen: Bemi Allen
Glinda: Machaiah Merriweather
The story takes us on a familiar journey. We meet Aunt Em, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion, Emerald City, the Great and Powerful Wiz and, not so great and powerful, the Wicked Witch of the West. “Then there is Glinda and one other good witch thrown in for comic relief. All will know the story line and will enjoy the added urban twist,” Rothwell said.
Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students. Call CAST at 256-820-2278 for reservations or OPAC at 256-241-3322.
‘April in Talladega’ tour of homes
Pride is showing this month in a town that can claim three national historic districts. Volunteers have been getting ready for “April in Talladega,” April 13-14, for months. This pilgrimage, which celebrates heritage, has been offered for at least 40 years, according to council members who have been fine-tuning the schedule. History showcased includes pre-Civil War history and the early 1900s.
Tours of buildings will take place from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. both days. There will be a wine and cheese party at Heritage Hall from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday night, and luncheon fundraiser at Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church both days at 11:30 a.m. On Saturday, there will be a Family Block Party on the Square from 5-9 p.m.
There will also be guided tours of Oak Hill Cemetery on Court Street on Friday at 4 p.m. and Saturday at 1 and 2 p.m. The town’s history will be called up through people in period attire portraying individuals who were key in the development of Talladega. These actors tell the story of how the town came to be known as a commercial, legal and educational center.
Here’s information on two structures on the tour:
• The Stringer-Waller Home, 203 Margaret St., was built in 1904 and designed by Frank Lockwood, noted Montgomery architect who designed buildings throughout the South after the turn of the century. A classical revival house, it was built by the Stringers, a family that owned a dry goods store on the town square. Purchased by the Wallers in 1986. “The home’s features are largely unchanged,” Debbie Waller said, referring to the mantles, light fixtures and door hardware.
• Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church, 208 North St. E. Episcopal church history in Talladega goes back to 1850. The first congregation was first known as Grace Episcopal Church, then changed to Saint Peter’s. The current Gothic church, of Indiana limestone, was completed in 1928. The stained glass window over the altar was made by Payne-Spire Studio in New York City and installed in 1940. Saint Peter’s was to be the mother church of Grace Episcopal in Anniston as well as for four other Episcopal churches in east central Alabama. The church’s total historic restoration was completed in 2017.
The information center is at Heritage Hall, 200 South Street. The former Jemison-Carnegie Library, it was built in 1908 in the Beaux Art style and is one of the four remaining Carnegie Library buildings still standing in Alabama. It was designed by Frank Lockwood. Information is also available at the Talladega Chamber of Commerce at 256 362 9075.
True-life crime author to speak in Anniston
On April 17 at 2 p.m., the Public Library of Anniston-Calhoun County will host a program by David Howard, author of “Chasing Phil: The Adventures of Two Undercover Agents and the World’s Most Charming Con Man.” The book has been optioned for a motion picture by Robert Downey.
According to Howard, readers have enjoyed learning about the true adventures of Phil Kitzer, a highly intelligent con man educated in banking and insurance, and the two young undercover agents who followed him around the country and abroad. “There is the incredible friendship that developed between the agents and Kitzer before the arrest. And the way the investigation unfolded is fascinating,” Howard said. “It is a true story with an Alabama connection. One of the agent’s childhood was actually spent in Mobile.”
Hervey Folsom writes about the local arts scene every Sunday. Contact her at email@example.com.