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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Back in March, Blair Frodelius’s Daily Ozmapolitan noted an article in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette about the St. Joseph Central Elementary School’s unusual adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz:
A witch made an appearance, as in most versions, but this rendition included cameos by aliens, pilgrims and a time machine.

After 13 weeks of preparation, the students were finally ready for their regional Destination ImagiNation competition, which took place last weekend in Bourbon. About 50 students from St. Joseph Central participated in the event, which challenged students to use critical thinking, problem-solving and communication skills. Winners will go on to the state championship in April.

St. Joseph Central had several teams participate in different events. Eleven-year-old Katelyn Kiernan and her teammates were involved in the “Triple Take Road Show” portion of the competition, which focused on fine arts.

The students had to tell “The Wizard of Oz” three different ways to three different audiences and come up with inventive ways of getting from one audience to the next (hence the time machine).
It makes sense to use The Wizard of Oz in an exercise like this because the core story is so elemental to begin with and so well known in America. I’ve seen American community college writing teachers speak about The Wizard of Oz as the only example of a plot all their students recognize.

That said, I still have trouble understanding the innovation in Wizard of Oz stage plays shown in the photo above, from Annaghmore Primary School in Northern Island: dancing skeletons in Oz. They seem to show up most often in school productions outside the US, where people don’t feel they have to be so faithful to the 1939 movie.

These are part of an adaptation commissioned by the St. Louis Municipal Opera in 1942, which uses the E. Y. Harburg/Harold Arlen score and a few more numbers, such as “Ghost Dance.” The skeletons stand in for the Flying Monkeys, which I suppose are harder to depict outside of a movie screen—though half of my own stage debut in second grade was as the Monkey Who Grabs Toto.

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