Teen leads the 'Oz' cast in Ice Town production

By Linda Thompson

Contributor

For the last six weeks, Morgan Barduson of Carmel Valley has been practicing her leading role in "The Wizard of Oz" June 13 at UTC's Ice Town.

Morgan, 16, will perform "No Good Deed" (from "Wicked") while portraying the Wicked Witch of the West, who covets Dorothy's slippers and doesn't understand why she's perceived as evil.

Morgan is no stranger to performing. She has been on the ice since age 4. But even with 12 years of experience, she said she still gets nervous before the curtain goes up. She's able to calm herself by saying, "I always get through it."

This is her second year in a lead skating role; her previous was the Queen of Hearts in 2009's "Alice In Wonderland." She described it as one of her tougher performances because it required learning to pair dance with the King of Hearts.

"Pair is very hard, actually," she said. Successful pair skating requires staying in sync and "maintaining eye contact with your partner at all times." As for spins, these required the couple to count out loud so each knew when to change positions on the spin.

Morgan emphasized the importance of the practices to coordinate some 140 cast members. She uses the time to envision where the props will be placed, as well as learning to improvise.

Morgan is hoping her costume will arrive soon enough to adapt her skating technique to her hat and broom. Her spins and jumps must hit to the "booms" in the loud music.

Morgan admitted that no performance is flawless. During last year's production, she grabbed her leg to pull it to her head during a spin. Her hand hit the blade, cutting it open. Although the incident was bloody and painful, she chalked it up to experience: "I survived," she said.

Her skating career is demanding. It requires her to wake up at 5 a.m. to practice. However, skating is not her entire focus. The junior carries a 4.5 GPA, is a member of the National Honor Society, and plays competitive golf at Torrey Pines High School. Her best 18-hole score is 84.

Although she loves golf, her passion remains with skating. Her coaches, Ann Bahaire, a former Olympian skater; Julie Newman; and Matt Smith, a former Canadian National Skater, are training her to advance through the levels.

"I passed my senior moves in the field and got a gold medal," she said. "These moves are internationally recognized and qualify skaters to compete at the Olympics. I'm working to pass my senior free-skate, and I'm currently on my novice. I have novice, junior and senior left."

Smith has been her primary coach for the last four years. He said Morgan is a powerful and skilled skater — whether maneuvering foot moves, jumps or spins. He said he can always rely on her to attend practices. He used the words "steady Eddie" to convey her dedication.

Smith also discussed the "Oz" production. He credits his staff with organizing the skaters to fit into the show, which is broken into segments so each coach can choreograph a section and age group.

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