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MNfusion: Scarecrow Dean Holt Discusses CTC's 'Wizard Of Oz'

"There's no place like home."

"I'll be home for the holidays."

There is a deep connection between the idea of home and holidays.

While the definition of home can be many different things and commemorative moments can include things beyond holidays, everyone wants to be with people they love when celebrating.

Perhaps this is why the Children's Theatre Company chose the iconic show, "The Wizard of Oz," to be the holiday feature for the 50th season.

The colorful story of a girl who's lost her way shares the timeless messages of bravery, friendship and perseverance. It reminds audiences, both young and old, that no matter how far you are from home, the ones you love are always in your mind and heart.

The story is not only compelling to audiences, but actors as well. A number of the cast members are returning to the stage to play roles they previously held. Among them is Dean Holt. Holt will be returning to his role as the Scarecrow.

Holt took some time to share with me why he is returning to the show and why it remains such a classic. So, follow the yellow brick road because we're off to see the Wizard!

The Scarecrow in 'The Wizard of Oz'
(credit: Dan Norman)

This is not your first time on the stage as the Scarecrow with the Children's Theatre. How does it feel to reprise the role?

Holt: I think it is always a great gift to come back to a role. It's very common for an actor to have "aha!" moments and discoveries after a production closes, so having the opportunity to revisit a character, a story and choices that were made is something I really enjoy. It's important to treat this production like the first time and remember that fresh eyes bring fresh discoveries. Some choices made [in earlier productions] work well just based on the action of the story and the world of the set, however some find a surprising new path because of a new direction or a different actor's instincts. This show is unique in that it has so many iconic moments from the movie, you want to honor those and yet you want to make it fresh and alive.

"The Wizard of Oz" is definitely an iconic show so I can see how it would be a struggle to make sure each show and each production is new. Now that you've gotten to revisit this character, what is your favorite part about playing the Scarecrow?

Holt: I really enjoy playing with the physicality of the Scarecrow and how to best portray a man made of straw. I love characters with specific movement traits, be it straw, animal, whatever. It is fun to try and inhabit a new way of moving from head to toe.

I can see how that would be really fun as an actor! Do you have a favorite scene in the show?

Holt: As far as a favorite scene, it's hard to pick. It's such a beloved story. I think anytime I am in a scene with Bradley (Tin Man), Traci (Dorothy), and Reed (Cowardly Lion) I am happiest. I think we have found a great way of complementing one another and we are all just having such a good time.

Well it's nice you get to spend the majority of the show together, then! Dorothy seems to learn a lesson from each of the characters she encounters during her time in Oz. What do you think Dorothy gains from the Scarecrow?

Dorothy and the Scarecrow in 'The Wizard Of Oz'
(credit: Dan Norman)

Holt: In every production I always wonder why it is she says, "I think I'll miss you most of all" to the Scarecrow at the end. The script doesn't necessarily give us a lot of clues, but I do think because the Scarecrow is the first person she encounters the bond is stronger. He has been with her the longest, he tends to be the first to step in on her behalf and protect her when situations arise in Oz and, while some of this is scripted some are choices I have made in trying to present that relationship. It's always a balance to make sure the connection is strong with all three characters and Dorothy, but I purposely place myself alongside Dorothy whenever possible to visually strengthen that connection. In all three of the characters she meets along the way I think she learns about friendship and the building blocks of what makes our relationships with others click. But with the Scarecrow, I think that connection just happens to land a little deeper inside Dorothy in helping her find the true sense of what it means to be "home."

It must be nice to get to foster such a strong relationship on stage. If you were to be any other character in the show, what character would you be?

Holt: Boy, I don't know. I think Toto because every time he makes an entrance or does what he is choreographed to do he gets a treat. That sounds pretty nice. I also love watching the Professor Marvel and Wizard scenes. That might be fun to do when my body rejects the idea of being made of straw and flopping all over the place.

"The Wizard of Oz" was chosen to be the holiday show this season. Why do you think this story is a good fit for the holiday season?

Holt: Oh, it's such a natural fit. What story is more beloved than "The Wizard of Oz?" And at a time of year when nostalgia and being together with friends and family is at the center, this show is the perfect companion to those sentiments.

What is it about this story that made it last the test of time? Why do you think it's important to keep telling it to future generations?

Holt: I feel the movie made this story the classic it has become. It captured heart, humor, fantasy, sentiment, good, evil and so much more in a way that resonated then and still does. We all have moments where we feel lost in unfamiliar territory, dealing with life's Wicked Witches, and we struggle with our inner thoughts, courage and compassion on a daily basis. The story points out to us that those traits we feel we struggle with or do not possess actually lie inside, and it is up to us to believe in them and in ourselves. This story is important because it carries nostalgic feelings and ideas that are totally relevant in today's world. It beautifully presents, to young and old, the importance of finding our voices, being brave in who we are, standing up and standing tall when difficulties come our way, realizing the wonderful traits hiding in each of us and forging strong friendships to help us along the way.

"The Wizard of Oz" is open now through Jan. 10, 2016 at the Children's Theatre Company. Tickets cost $10 - $60. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit the Children's Theatre Company online.

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