When she picked up the phone, her manager asked, “How many seats do you want?” That’s how Sarah Lasko found out she would be playing Dorothy in the national tour of The Wizard of Oz.
It was the perfect role for the longtime Oz fan. “I loved The Wizard of Oz movie and I watched it over and over growing up. I even had a poster from the movie in my room,” Lasko says.
The road to Oz was not easy; it took six auditions to get the part and she had to learn more than 40 pages of material. But Lasko says it is part of the job, and surprisingly, she enjoys auditioning. “It is always exciting to take over a role—even for an hour,” she says.
Once the tour began, the cast performed eight shows a week, and Dorothy was on stage for almost the entire show. “It was definitely one of the hardest things I have done,” Lasko says, and she had to be “vigilant about rest” throughout the tour.
But even with the tough schedule, she was motivated to perform every night.
“Every show, I tried to make it a new experience and make it something different from the night before. And this was the first theatrical experience for many kids, so I really wanted to make it special for them.”
Lasko especially enjoyed working with her co-star, Nigel, who played Toto, and his understudy, Loki. Both dogs are Cairn Terrier rescues. “Learning how to be a dog handler on stage added an extra layer of challenge to the show. But it was also so much fun and I loved having dogs on the tour. They were stress relief!” Lasko says.
While working with animals on stage was new, Lasko is no stranger to the challenges of working in live theatre.
She began performing in the Washington, DC, area at the age of seven and made her debut at age 14 in Annie Get Your Gun, a Montgomery College Summer Dinner Theatre production.
It was the beginning of a long relationship. Lasko earned an associate’s degree at Montgomery College before transferring to the University of Maryland. At the College, she was impressed by the “stellar production values” including costumes, set pieces, and lighting. “And I got the opportunity to learn by doing, to train as an actor, singer, and performer, and to explore what I was passionate about,” she says.
KenYatta Rogers, professor of theater, says it was that willingness to explore that set Lasko apart. Rogers directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which Lasko played Helena, and he was struck then by her inquisitiveness. “She was willing to take risks and so willing to play. A consummate student,” he says. “I’m looking forward to watching her work in the future and over the moon about her success”
Lisa Carrier Baker, a professor of music and Lasko’s longtime voice teacher, agrees. She was one of the first in line to see The Wizard of Oz when the tour stopped in Washington last May.
“I can’t describe the pride I felt when I saw Sarah as Dorothy. It’s been a joy to see her grow as a performer,” Baker says.
Lasko returned to New York where she is auditioning and taking classes. And while her next road will not likely be paved with yellow bricks, we can’t wait to see where it takes her.
Photos by Daniel A. Swalec.