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Traci Allen Shannon will play Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz
Traci Allen Shannon joined CTC in the 2013-2014 season as the fifth resident Acting Company member. Her first role was the title character in Cinderella that season. Before becoming a Company member, Traci performed in Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy; Five Fingers of Funk; Bud, Not Buddy, and Fashion 47 at CTC and was a Performing Apprentice in 2008. She has also worked extensively in the Twin Cities, Chicago, Washington D.C., and around the country.
We asked her to talk about playing Dorothy in the upcoming production of The Wizard of Oz.
Children’s Theatre Company: At what age did you discover the story of The Wizard of Oz? How did your discovery of the story impact your life as a child and/or performer?
Traci Allen Shannon: I was first introduced to the movie The Wizard of Oz by my mother, who loves movie musicals. The Wizard of Oz was particularly close to her heart because she loved it as a little girl. I remember it was on TV and there was a special presentation of the movie in sing-a-long form. I sat there with my mom and watched the movie for the first time and sang along even though I didn't know the songs. The story is so iconic. The words, the music, everything comes together so perfectly. Seeing that played a major role in inspiring me to become a performer.
CTC: What do you relate to most in Dorothy’s character? Why?
TAS: The journey. Every protagonist in every story is on some type of journey. Dorothy's journey just happens to have both a literal and a figurative side. Who can't relate to that? Every day we each forge our paths on our individual journeys, constantly seeking the one thing we want most. Dorothy and I have this in common.
CTC: How do you feel about being cast as such an iconic character?
TAS: Equal parts exhilaration and terror. I want to do the role justice and give audiences a character that they recognize and love. But at the same time, I want to create something fun and original and put my own stamp on it. It is truly an honor to be cast in this role!
CTC: How do you feel playing the role as an African American woman? What would the impact be for you as a young girl having seen Dorothy portrayed as an African American woman?
TAS: We like to say that art imitates life. Well, life is colorful and diverse, and I love when art takes on those same characteristics. I'm thrilled to be playing Dorothy, and I'm thrilled to do it for our very special audience of young people who haven't yet learned to make all of the color distinctions that we make in our society. For the children who see this show, the people on the stage will look like the people they see in life every day, representing different shapes, sizes, colors, and cultures.
I didn't grow up seeing theatre like this. I was in high school before I saw a show with an African-American in a lead role. There's something amazing that happens when you see someone who looks like you doing something great. It inspires you. It changes the way you see yourself and causes you to take limits off of your potential, because if they can do it, so can you.
CTC: How will you approach the role of Dorothy? What will you bring to the role in telling this story today?
TAS: I approach every role with an open mind and joy. I need an open mind because no matter how well I think I have a character figured out, she will undoubtedly surprise me and cause me to rethink all the assumptions I've made about her (in the same way real people do). And I need joy because I love what I do and I want the audience to feel my joy at each and every performance!
CTC: What are you most excited for audiences to see in this show? TAS: Oz. It is absolutely beautiful!
Photo featuring Traci Allen Shannon by Dan Norman.