Fire destroys props, costumes of East Valley theatre company

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Wednesday night, rehearsals were under way for Copperstar Repertory Company's production of 'The Wizard of Oz.' It's their biggest show yet, and the company's founder couldn't be prouder.

"It means just about everything to me," Mary-Jo Okawa said. "In fact, these days, the situation being what it is, it's just really a joy to come here and rehearse."

She founded Copperstar in her Chandler home and it's a family affair. Her daughter and choreographer, Shanti, described their theatrical life.

'It's like there's wigs in the corner and set pieces in the living room,' she said.

But the family was dealt a tragedy Sept. 4 while Okawa's husband was home.

"He was working and he heard a really large noise," she said. "When he got to the edge of our house numbers, the garage essentially exploded out.

They all got out safely, but house is a total loss, as are the things the Okawa's worked hard for.

"Our trim and our ribbon and all of our wings and hats and feathers and just definitely special costume pieces and set pieces," she said.

As difficult as it is, the show must go on, so in between rehearsals, Okawa is asking for donations for a new space. Not for her immediate family, but for her theater one.

"We're hoping the community will get behind us a little bit and help us get settled...resettled," she said. And in return, they'll bring their best Oz to the East Valley.

To make a donation to Copperstar Repertory Company, visit their fundraising page on