An interview with Dorothy

There’s just one week to go until The Wizard of Oz opens at Storyhouse! We caught up with Consuela Rolle, who performs in the seminal role of Dorothy, after rehearsals had finished for the day…

Hi Consuela! How did it feel to get the part?

It was amazing and nerve-wracking at the same time. I know how iconic Dorothy is, and the pressure of that. But it was so exciting – a challenge, and one that I really wanted to take.

What was the audition process like?

It was really fun! It was a very friendly process. In the first round, I sang two songs that aren’t actually in The Wizard of Oz. I sang Is It Me and then I’m Breaking Down, from Falsettos the Musical. I chose them because they had a comedic side, so I could show character. They invited me back, and I sang Somewhere Over The Rainbow. In that second round we spent so long on the songs that we didn’t actually do many [acting] scenes.

I was completely sure I hadn’t got it. It didn’t seem believable that someone like me would get this part. I was eager to audition, but I didn’t ever really believe that I would get it. You don’t often see people who look like me playing the part of Dorothy. It was brilliant to get it. I visit my former college (in East London) a lot, and I went back to tell the students there now that they can do things like this. It was great to be able to say that to them – you can do this.

The old adage warns never to work with children or animals, and you’ll be working with both! How are you feeling about it?

Children have always been my audiences, but I’ve never worked on stage with them. I can’t wait – it’s scary, it’s unpredictable, it’s wonderful. And I LOVE dogs, I’ve always wanted one. This is going to be like having my very own.

How are you preparing to take on the role of Dorothy?

We really wanted to focus on the truthfulness of the story, to give it depth and make it real. I’m playing a child – Dorothy is 12, she’s on the cusp of teenagerhood, but still a child. I’ve been researching children, how they think, how they act, how they react. I have lots of brothers and sisters, and children really know more thank you think. They’re feeling more emotions than we could ever guess. But at the same time, they’re still children. They retreat into imagination and wonder, and I really want to get that across.

The other element that’s important to us has been researching how Kansas really was, for a black family, in the 1930s, and staying true to that for the Kansas scenes. Creating a realistic backstory for Dorothy was important. There isn’t a lot of information about her given in the script, so we had to come up with logical solutions for that and then sync it up with other characters in the show.

What aspects of your own personality are you bringing to the role?

In any role, there’s always an aspect of yourself that you bring to the character you portray. I don’t feel that I’ve grown up that much, so I’ll definitely be tapping into that childish sense of being. The story encourages that, and it’s ultimately (hopefully) what everyone who’s going to see the show will do, too. We’ll transport you away into this world and you can of re-find that aspect of you within yourself.

What’s your favourite song The Wizard of Oz?

I have two! Somewhere Over The Rainbow and Jitterbug. Jitterbug because I love jazz and it’s a very characterful song. Then Somewhere Over The Rainbow just melts your heart. It’s iconic, everyone knows it. It’s about a child trying to break away from reality and wanting to be in a place of wonder instead. It transports the audience with her.

If you could ask for one thing from the Wizard himself, what would it be?

If I could have a wish? I believe The Wizard of Oz is about tapping into what you already have. I would want to always be able to make the most of what I’ve got already. Everybody is special in their own way – no one should want to change themselves for no reason. That is the message of the story. The Tin Man already has a heart, he just doesn’t know it yet. The Scarecrow’s got brains, she just hasn’t realised. My wish would be to always realise what you’ve got and appreciate it.

The Wizard of Oz runs from Friday 7 December to Sunday 6 January.
Find out more and book tickets here.