This morning I finished the first draft of my adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s classic “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” It’s a great feeling to type “End of Play” on the final page, but the process is much more thrilling. This was an incredibly fun and easy project, causing very little consternation in its development. It was a fast write, taking approximately three days (roughly 20 hours), comprising 5,700 words, 21 pages, or about 40 minutes of onstage action.
This project came with several qualifications. I wrote the script specifically for the Developmental Disabilities Resource Center’s fall production (we start rehearsing in two weeks), and I’ll be the director. The script needed to be developmentally appropriate and suitable for mostly untrained though somewhat experienced actors. Since this is my third time working with this organization, I even had certain actors in mind, hearing their “voices” in my mind as I shaped the dialogue. Time will tell if the people I imagined playing certain roles will actually be cast as I anticipated. Surprises happen at every audition.
Another important consideration was that I could not use ANY of the dialogue from the MGM film or the trademarked stage musical version, for obvious copyright reasons — unless the dialogue or characters also appeared in the original book. In the Kansas opening scene, for example, there are no hired hands corresponding to the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion. They are unique to the MGM and official stage version, and so for me, off limits. Glinda the Good Witch of the South doesn’t come on until the end. Her cousin Locasta, Good Witch of the North is the one who greets Dorothy when she arrives in the land of the Munchkins. The “ruby” slippers are actually silver. These and other distinctions between book and movie had to be respected.
On the other hand, I had free rein to make any changes I wished to the original Baum text in other ways, adding some elements NOT found in the movie or musical versions. That’s a lot of dodging and juggling, but I’m pleased with how it turned out.
The extra, added touch, is that I boosted the comedic and farcical elements of what is basically a quest story. There’s more for the ensemble to do, and supporting characters have been developed. I’ve added a lot of physical humor, a little irony, and some verbal jokes and puns in order to boost character development, update to a more contemporary sensibility, and add an element of surprise to a very familiar story.
The result will be a production that is clearly “The Wizard of Oz,” yet distinct from both the book and the musical, told with my peculiar voice.
There will naturally be some rewrites and adjustments to dialogue once we get into the rehearsal process. But the blueprint is there, and I’m looking forward to bringing “The Wizard of Oz” to life!