During my formative years, way before TiVo or Netflix, we poor, media-starved cave dwellers had to depend on what the television networks dished out for our in-home entertainment. So the once-a-year broadcast of the 1939 classic movie, The Wizard Of Oz, was a colossal family event. By the time I was 11 years old, like most kids of my generation, I knew every line of dialogue by heart.
Halfway through the 6th Grade, I somehow got the idea that it would be fun to write the movie in play form. I loved the movie so much, and was so disappointed when it was over again for another year, that I suppose the urge to write it down was a way to possess the experience a little longer, to stay inside that magical world. (Is this where all writing comes from? A kind of sympathetic juju to build a world we want to spend more time in?) Of course, I loved the original L. Frank Baum Oz books, and read them all the time (my favorite was the first sequel, The Land of Oz), but it was definitely the movie screenplay I wanted to plagiarise, er, adapt, as my passport back into that enchanted realm.
Anyway, I set to work, with a yellow pencil and blue-lined Jiffy notebook paper (my preferred rough-draft mode throughout grade school, college, and the first two decades of my journalism career). And as the work progressed, I found I was writing the parts with certain of my classmates in mind. Eventually, I mustered the nerve to show the whole thing to my teacher, Mrs. Smock, with the idea that our class should stage my opus for the upcoming Parents Day.
Reader, I confess, we never did stage my Oz. Insurmountable complications involving munchkins, flying monkeys, child-safe fire effects, and copyrights must have put the kibosh on the whole thing. However, we did stage another play, The Magic Fishbone. And, in honor of my Herculean efforts on the Oz script, Mrs. Smock assigned me to direct the project. All of which inspired me, the following year, when I was a sophisticated, 12-year-old in junior high, to write an original play of my own. Okay, Gopher Girl was inspired by the TV series Batman (all the rage that year), but it was my own story, my own dialogue and my own jokes. What's more, three girlfriends and I actually performed it for a school talent show. What were we thinking?
Gopher Girl was the end of my playwriting career. (And, fortunately, my acting career.) But the irresistible urge to make up my own fictional stories continues to this day, five novels, several stories, and a few ice ages later. I probably never woulda had the noive (as the Cowardly Lion would say) if I hadn't first written The Wizard Of Oz.