By Rita Charleston
Swept away from her Kansas farm by a strong tornado, Dorothy lands in Oz atop an evil Witch. An epic adventure ensues as Dorothy tries to find the Wonderful Wizard of Oz and convince him to show her the way back to Kansas. On the way she meets tiny munchkins, flying monkeys, the Scarecrow, the Tinman and the Cowardly Lion, and discovers that she must help her friends first in order to face her fears and find her way home.
Quintessence Theater’s production of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz,” directed by Lee Cortopassi, continues at the Sedgwick Theater, 7137 Germantown Ave., through Jan. 5.
In this production, Doug Hara takes the role of the sorrowful Tinman who is searching for a heart. Played by Jack Haley in the original 1939 classic film production, Hara believes the play remains an audience favorite because it is a journey story, a story about finding home. “And I think we’ll be telling the story about ‘The Wizard of Oz’ for years and years to come.”
According to Hara, “The Tinman is not a hugely character-driven part, but it’s very plot-driven. You have to allow yourself to be someone people recognize, someone people can relate to and perhaps sympathize with as they’re going through this journey with Dorothy.”
Hara says that although he couldn’t help but be influenced by Haley’s portrayal in the movie, he did make a conscious effort to tread a different path when it came to the way he played the role. “The book and the movie were such a vivid and rich source of material that I tried to be myself and bring my own special thing to the part.”
Hara grew up in New York City and said that starting from a young age he knew he wanted to be involved with theater. “When I was in the seventh grade, I knew I was really interested in pursuing it when I was cast as a middle schooler in a college play at N.Y.U. So here I was working with these college students who were majoring in theater and taking it very seriously. It all sparked my imagination and I kept wanting to go back to it someday.”
That opportunity was fulfilled for Hara when he enrolled at Northwestern University and eventually got a bachelor’s degree in theater. “I decided to stay in Chicago after graduation and hooked up with a company there called the ‘Lookinglass Theatre Company.’ I stayed in Chicago for the next 13 years and continued working with them,” Hara explained.
And after then traveling around the country for a few years, appearing in many fine productions, Hara headed back East and settled in Lambertville in 2004, where he now lives with his wife and two children. He has performed with Quintessence before and has also been seen locally at the Arden, Theatre Horizon and The Lantern. He’s also appeared in regional productions around the country, as well as in productions on and off-Broadway.
Now 51 and having spent many years working at other jobs to support himself and his family — “waiter, messenger, costume picture framer, Lyft driver, farmer and so on — today I act full time. Next I’ll be co-directing and starring in ‘Cat in the Hat’ at the Arden.”
But ever since Hara played The Tinman in fourth grade, “The Wizard of Oz” remains one of his favorites — as does acting in general.
“Every time you do a role, you meet old friends and a new group of people, and you get together to collectively pursue a common goal, trying to bring as much generosity and optimism as you can to the process. And I find that incredibly beautiful,” the actor explained.
For ticket information call 215-987-4450.