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Monday, May 30, 2016
Dr. Thomas Zatorski wrapped his 27-year directing career at Valley Stream South High School with the recent production of “The Wizard of Oz.”
School News
‘Wizard of Oz’ is Zatorski’s curtain call

Valley Stream South High School’s recent production of “The Wizard of Oz” was a first and a last for Dr. Thomas Zatorski. It was his first time ever directing the play based on the popular 1939 film, but it was the last play at South to be done on his watch.

Zatorski, who has been a music teacher at the school for 27 years, will be retiring in June. Since coming to South in 1986, Zatorski has directed about 40 plays, though he admits he has lost count of exact total. He has mostly heralded over musicals, but has also directed a few dramas and comedies in that time.

Among the plays Zatorski has directed more than once are “Anything Goes,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Oklahoma” and “Grease.” But “Wizard of Oz” was a new one for him to direct, and he said he chose the play at the urging of the students.

“This show is different,” he said of the production which graced the South High stage April 5-6. “It’s not really a musical, it’s an adaptation of a movie. Film and stage are two different art forms. The same rules don’t apply.”

Zatorski also made only his second stage appearance in the “Wizard of Oz.” He played Nikko, one of the Wicked Witch of the West’s flying monkeys. After the actor initially chosen for the role wasn’t able to play the part, the cast encouraged Zatorski to take it on himself.

For a brief period in the second act, Zatorski left the familiar confines of the pit and got up on stage in full monkey costume. It was only his second cameo — he once played President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a production of “Annie.”

The pit is where Zatorski is most comfortable. An organist by trade, he has played the piano for the shows.

Zatorski said he doesn’t have a favorite show, but there have been some memorable moments over the past 27 years. For a production of “Anything Goes,” he got the whole cast to do a tap dance. In “Grease,” a real car was used on stage.

“Every show is just very unique,” he said, adding that each takes on a life of its own in the months of rehearsal leading up to opening night. “Every show has its positives to it.”

He described his directing style as “utilitarian.” Zatorski said he works to get the job done and isn’t afraid to shy away from any task, whether it is building the sets or finding the right props.


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