The Wizard of Oz is one of the most beloved spiritually grounded and subversive entertainments that I know, one that has delighted me forever and also given me a perspective on my own work. Many years ago, as I was adapting THE BOOK OF QUALITIES as a theater piece and struggling to create sequences where the actors sometimes described a Quality and sometimes became the Quality, I began to appreciate the profound simplicity of Frank Baum's story and how it was translated to film.
Wearing its messages lightly, Baum tells the soul's journey to wholeness with great embellishment and liveliness. I especially love the how the day time personalities entered into the dream world, more essentially who they are. The head-centered scarecrow, the heart-centered tin man, and the belly-centered lion grow into their wisdom, love, and courage.
Perhaps inspired by the Wizard of Oz, I developed one of the most abstract sequences in my play-a scene with masked actors masked in the faces of Panic, Anxiety and Terror. As the scene evolves, an actor wearing a large Courage mask with spokes to several smaller masks enters and dances with these characters. I composed a chant tracing Fear through the body. Fear in the mind becomes Anxiety. Fear in the heart becomes Terror. And Fear in the belly bounces up into the mind as Panic, moves down and locks the knees in Obstinacy.
I didn't simply want to show Courage triumphing over Fear but have them keep sliding into each other. Because Fear is often so dramatic and compelling, I want to show that Courage has many forms and faces. That "I dance with Courage and then I become Courage dancing." Then there are six of us with Courage dancing through us. Linked together we each become an aspect of Courage.
Thank you for reminding me about the Town of Qualities. Every now and then I think of re-entering that script and finding a new way to bring the Qualities on stage. And thank you for reminding me to watch THE WIZARD OF OZ again, at this time of year which is so suited to dreaming.
About J. Ruth
Causes J. Ruth Gendler Supports
Poets in the Schools
River of Words
Friends of the Earth
Doctors Withour Borders