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Lake Country Faces: First-time actress hits center stage as Dorothy in 'The Wizard of Oz'

Pequot Lakes junior Elizabeth Blaeser poses with the basket she’ll use to play Dorothy Gale in the school’s upcoming production of “The Wizard of Oz.” Blaeser was originally Dorothy’s understudy.

After auditioning for the "smallest roles" she could think of, Pequot Lakes High School junior Elizabeth Blaeser never expected to be in the spotlight during her school's upcoming play.

But now Blaeser - who has never acted before - finds herself preparing to be Dorothy Gale in "The Wizard of Oz," which is perhaps the show's largest role.

"I never thought it would get this big," she said of her road to center stage.

After getting cast in those "small roles" she hoped for, Blaeser said she had been arriving to rehearsals early because she liked watching the little munchkins practice. That's when Director Susan Mathison-Young asked her to fill in for Dorothy when needed.

"I was like, 'Yeah, sure, that sounds fun,'" Blaeser said. "And then it slowly got to be this big deal."

Blaeser officially became Dorothy's understudy about two weeks ago. Then on April 5 - a little over a week before showtime - it was official that Mollie Pierson, originally cast as Dorothy, could no longer fill the role. So it went to Blaeser.

"I don't have a doubt in my mind," Mathison-Young said of Blaeser's ability to fill the role at such a late date. "All of the kids that are in this show are amazing."

Quite a few emotions are running through the first-time actress's mind as she gets ready for the performance.

"It's kind of nerve-racking because I haven't had as much time as a lot of the other people," Blaeser said. "But I kind of like it because it's like this adrenaline, where it's kind of going to be like I'm winging it a little bit, and I'm just figuring things out as I go."

Spending a shorter amount of time with her character also ensures that Blaeser won't get bored with the role.

"If I had been doing it the whole time, I'd get bored with it and not like it," she said. "But now that I have this short amount of time, it's very intense, and it's very cool."

Another, perhaps more surprising, factor plays into the intensity of Blaeser's role in "The Wizard of Oz" as well.

"I've never seen the movie," she said. "I've seen bits and pieces, and I've watched parts of it to practice for the play and stuff, but I've never seen the full thing."

But this "Wizard of Oz" newbie thoroughly enjoys playing Dorothy.

"I like how she comes off as naive and kind of childish, but throughout the thing you can see that she's actually really confident, kind of sassy," Blaeser said of Dorothy. "There's just this underlying coolness about her, where she slaps the lion in the nose, and she just kind of takes control of a situation when she's been thrown into this pretty rough thing."

Like Dorothy, Blaeser is taking control of an unexpected situation herself. And she is still happy with how her theater endeavor is turning out because trying something new was the goal all along.

"I'm in STRIVE, and I think that week (of auditions) we had this lecture about doing things to get out of your comfort zone," she said. "So here I am, and dang it if I haven't been pushed out of my comfort zone."

And dang it if she isn't having fun either.

"It was something I didn't think I was going to like as much as I do," she said. "It's just fun to watch other people do the same thing. I don't know if I like the acting part of it as much as I like the watching and the helping part of it. But I do think next year, I'm doing it (again) because I've always wanted to, and I always chicken out auditioning. But now that I've already auditioned, and I've already done everything, there's nothing holding me back anymore."


'The Wizard of Oz'

When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 13-14, and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 15

Where: Pequot Lakes High School auditorium

Tickets: $5 at the door for everyone. No student passes will be accepted. Infants in arms are free. All seating is open with none reserved. Tickets go on sale one hour before the show, and doors open half an hour before showtime.