Community Theaters Rock!

Judy Garland was born on June 10, 1922 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. I imagine her parents and the residents of Grand Rapids had no idea the impact that tiny little girl would have on America’s film history. I wonder if Judy Garland herself in her later years had imagined that when she made the movie Wizard of Oz it would live on in the generations to come.
I knew who Judy Garland was because The Wizard of Oz was made in 1939 and I was the first generation after my parents to view the iconic film which was re-released in the theater. Later on it was always on television at Easter so my kids could experience the magic of Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Man, The Cowardly Lion, The Scarecrow and of course the Wicked Witch and the Glinda the Good Witch. We also cannot forget the great Oz.
Many movie icons are not known by future generations. My kids know who John Wayne is because their dad is a John Wayne fan. My grandchildren have no idea who Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable or who Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue are. My grandchildren know who the Three Stooges are because it is being brought back in film. My grandchildren know who Judy Garland is because Judy was Dorothy.
A couple of weekends ago I had the pleasure along with my daughter –in-law and granddaughter to attend The River Valley Theatre Company’s production of the Wizard of Oz in Shakopee, Minnesota.
I was ready for the usual version. I hadn’t seen the advertisements and although I love live shows and musicals I have seen the Wizard of Oz many times. Occasionally when I see something many times I get a little bored. However this time I was wowed.
This was River Valley Theatre Company’s version of the Wizard of Oz. This was the steam punk setting. Things were out of the ordinary. Dorothy had gold sparkly boots instead of red slippers. Steam punk incorporated elements of science fiction and fantasy. It incorporated fictional brass and steam machines found in the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.
This version was exciting, toe tapping and hand clapping. The costumes were out of this world. Everybody was sparkly and colorful and the wicked witch’s costume of black leather, spandex and corsets was awesome. My granddaughter will forever remember this version of the Wizard of Oz. This version made me want to go back again and again. No longer did I think I may doze off because I had seen Dorothy make it back to Kansas many times. What could possibly be different? Dorothy made it home but with a few twists.
Why am I writing about my awesome experience at a community theatre? We never know what in today’s world will still be passed on to the generations that come after us. We never know what is going to influence the culture of our grandchildren and great grandchildren. We never know what might influence the culture even beyond them. What icons will still be remembered 100 years from now? If we knew something would be remembered long after it was presented would we change as a culture what we put before our society today? How do we want to be remembered? How do we want our actions to affect the future?
I also want to praise and complement community theatre companies that aren’t afraid to change and use their vision of a production to inspire all of us. The creativity used in creating a twist in theatre to change the humdrum of what we are used to should be applauded.

by Julie Seedorf © July 2012

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