An Interview with APA’s “Wizard of Oz: Young Performer’s Edition” Director, Miss Ashley!   

In this month’s music blog, I sat down with our very own musical director of “Wizard of Oz: Young Performer’s Edition” to learn more about her musical background, and all about our upcoming Dec. musical… 

Q: Can you tell me a little about your background in musical theater/drama? 

“As soon as I could talk and walk, I was singing, danced, and performing for others. My first theatrical performance was in “Willy Wonka Jr.” as a chef/ensemble member. I did one more show after that but was rejected in five-consecutive auditions from the same company. My confidence was a tad shot, but I mustered up the courage to audition for my high school’s musical my freshman year. I shut myself away all weekend to prepare for the audition- watching YouTube videos, and trying different voices- until I landed the role of Cinderella’s step-sister. This role began my high school performance career, including Ariel in Footloose, Laurie in Oklahoma, and Morticia in The Addams Family. I pursued my new-found love in college at The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, auditioning for the Musical Theatre program and graduating in May of 2022. At UWM, I performed in three shows while studying the makings of Musical Theatre and began writing my own musical compositions and monologues. ” 

Q: What drew you to musical theater, and specifically to wanting to direct? 

“I’ll never forget my freshman year of college when I finally learned why Musical Theatre exists. We were told, “Musicals are for emotions too powerful for words alone; These words need to be communicated through music to appropriately convey their emotion”. I’ve always been a passionate person by nature, and I believe musical theatre is one of the most passionate ways someone can connect to the world around them. With that being said, flipping the coin from performance to directing has been one of the most beautiful experiences I could’ve asked for. After performing for quite some time, I wanted to help students uncover their artistic potential, power, and ability. In “The Wizard of Oz: Young Performer’s Edition”, I’m witnessing young students make bold, impactful choices. They’re speaking their minds in empathetic ways, and genuinely working hard at their craft. Needless to say, my students are showing me the beauty of Musical Theatre from a new perspective, and I’m very grateful. ” 

Q:  What can audience members expect from your directorial debut at APA, “Wizard of Oz: Youth Edition”?   Can you tell me a bit about this musical? 

“This show is a BLAST! Not only are there insanely talented actors, but we have some fun special effects (: Patrons can expect exciting lighting and props, a bubble & fog machine, and a night to remember. You might even find yourself singing the show’s songs after the performance!  “The Wizard of Oz: Young Performer’s Edition” centers around Dorothy Gale’s journey from Kansas to Munchkinland, and the Great Emerald City. She meets a Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion, Witches, flying monkeys, Ozians, Munchkins, and plenty of other characters along the way! Our musical features catchy musical numbers, silly scenes, dynamic dancing, and heart-warming morals. Patrons can guarantee laughter, joy, and endless entertainment. ”

Q:  How many student actors are in this show?  What are their age range and acting background?   

“There are 14 total student actors, ranging from 5-13 years old! ”


Q: I know your “Wizard of Oz” musical class is geared not only toward preparing a musical performance, but also teaching your actors more about the musical process.  Can you explain in a little more detail, what your performers have learned about being in a musical throughout the course of your rehearsals?  What skills and knowledge will they take away from this class? 

“So far, students have covered audition techniques, performance spaces, character development, branding as an artist, and understanding the audition process. In the coming weeks, students will learn about musical theatre genres, resume and rep-book building, callbacks, costuming, lighting, and in-show etiquette. Additionally, students learn fun theatre games, make new friends, and create lasting memories.”

Q:  Two of our APA music students are co-stage managers for the “Wizard of Oz”.  For those who may be interested in being a future APA stage manager, what kinds of skills does one need to possess to do so?  What does being a stage manager all involve? 

“A strong stage manager is organized, a great listener, and able to think ‘on their toes’! Stage managers are responsible for writing down all blocking made during the rehearsal process, as well as any notes made at rehearsal. During the performance, stage managers ensure each actor is ready for their upcoming scene. They also manage the off-stage area and help keep actors safe during the show runs. ”

Q:  What words of advice would you offer to those who may be on the fence about auditioning for an APA musical?  Anything you would like those students to know?   

“If you’re evening thinking about auditioning, it’s 100% worth a try! You truly never know if you’ll like something until you try it, and this might be your new favorite thing (or collegiate major, like myself). It might seem terrifying to audition for a stranger; You feel like you’re going to throw up, your hands won’t stay dry, and for some odd reason, your heart’s moved to your throat. Trust me, I’ve been there- but as a former performer now turned director, I promise we want to see you shine. We want to see you for who you are, your quirks, and what you’re great at. Actors typically have 3-5 minutes for an audition; I recommend you do your best to make an impression. Make strong choices, make the director laugh/cry, and make those 3-5 minutes about you. And when you’re all done? Throw that audition away- don’t hold onto what you could/couldn’t have done differently. Let it go, and leave it to the director. Trust that if this show is meant for you, you’ll land a role. If not, you’re onto bigger and better things for your personal journey. ”

Q: Especially for those who have never been to a musical, can you explain what all the benefits are?  What makes them so popular?   

“Musicals are one of the best ways to find a community of like-minded people and create long-lasting friendships. To be a ‘thespian’, you’re required to work as a team, think of others, and see what different personalities exist. Not only that, but you genuinely have a blast! Most theatres will play games and have group activities, along with individual artist work. Students receive acting/vocal coaching to an extent, along with some choreography. It takes a lot of work to put a musical together, but nothing feels better than performing for an audience after months of rehearsal. It’s an opportunity to be proud of yourself and your work, along with the work of your cast members. ”

Q: What can parents, community members, teachers, etc. do to help support our student actors in “Wizard of Oz”?  Any opportunities for sponsorship, fundraising, etc? 

“Yes! Any cast/crew member has information on our advertisement sponsorships. We are selling ads in the show’s program to help generate funds for the overall production. Any interest in purchasing an advertisement can be directed to: [email protected] 

Outside of financial contributions, physical attendance for our performance is the biggest contribution you can make. Nothing is better than a full house, and actors put on performances FOR patrons, after all! Additionally, words of support and encouragement towards an actor go a long way. ”


Q: Anything else you would like our APA readers and families to know about this musical, or musical theater in general? 

“You won’t want to miss this performance!! Each actor has worked incredibly hard, and it would mean the world to them if they had lots of familiar faces to come see the show!”

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