Arts flourish as Wareham Middle School students prepare for trip to ‘Oz’

By Matthew Bernat | Mar 23, 2018
Photo by: Matthew Bernat From left: Jackson Veugen (Tin Man), Anna Ambarik (Aunt Em), Abby Wiksten (Wicked Witch of the West) and Emerson Femino (Dorothy) on stage before a rehearsal of the drama club’s upcoming production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

For the past three years, one Wareham Middle School club has been on the rise, and the results of its dramatic success will be on stage this Friday.

That’s when 90 students will come together to perform “The Wizard of Oz” for two sold out shows.

The school’s drama club returned in 2016 after a long absence, championed by a small group of parents.

With a $600 grant from the Parent Teacher Association, the club purchased scripts and the rights to perform “Annie.”

After that show, which featured a cast of 50, word about the club spread among students.

“It’s the most popular club in school,” said Abby Wiksten, an eighth grader. “It gets bigger every year.”

Abby plays the Wicked Witch of the West. Joining her on stage will be Emerson Femino (Dorothy), Jackson Veugen (the Tin Man) and Anna Ambarik (Aunt Em).

Jackson said seeing last year’s performance of “Peter Pan” was enough for him to audition.

“That really inspired me to try out,” he said.

For Abby, Anna and Emerson, this show marks their third time performing for the club, which has attracted students from all grades at the middle school.

“It’s nice to see sixth, seventh and eighth graders spending time and working together towards a goal,” said Jamie Wiksten, Abby’s mother and the show’s artistic director. “They’re not just hanging out in their own groups.”

Wiksten, along with club advisor Kim Bergamini and assistant director Andrea Bridge, helped guide the students through months of rehearsals. They also secured new equipment for the show, such as spotlights and microphones, as well as coordinated the wardrobe.

Wiksten noted this year parents and the community stepped up in a big way to make the show the best it could be.

That started in December when Cheri Lindsey, owner of Lindsey’s Family Restaurant, sponsored a drama club trip to see a performance of “Elf” in Middleborough, paying for all the students to attend.

“We are so grateful,” said Wiksten. “That happened right after we casted the show. That’s when everyone came together and truly became an ensemble.”

Wiksten noted that Steve Ruiz, director of Wareham Community Television, and the owners of Marc Anthony’s Pizzeria in Onset also provided assistance for the show.

Another surprise this year was the number of parents who stepped forward to help design and make costumes.

The outfits are tailor-made for each student, allowing them to get lost in the role, said Wiksten.

“When the costumes are on, they are no longer middle school students. They worked hard to create their characters,” said Wiksten.

Emerson said playing Dorothy gave her a chance to explore her adventurous side.

“She has a lot of courage. That’s for sure,” said Emerson about her character.

For Anna, Aunt Em’s feisty nature was fun to portray.

“She’s usually stressed, short tempered. There’s a lot to do on stage,” said Anna.

Wiksten said she’s committed to making sure every student who wants a part is able to participate. This year, that meant accommodating the massive cast.

“We don’t want to turn anybody away at this age group,” said Wiksten. “They should all have a chance to see if drama is something they want to pursue.”

Luckily, the show had plenty of opportunities for parts, including munchkins, swaying trees and dancing poppies. There are also nine students working as the stage crew.

Wiksten, who is involved with the Marion Arts Center, said the club’s success has been heartening. She expects it to continue, too.

“The students are already asking me about what next year’s show will be,” said Wiksten.

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