Wednesday, May 22, 2013

20th Anniversary Memories - Unauthorized Magic in Oz

The houses from Unauthorized Magic
Rarely do I get to feel like a rock star.

However, with one small production, a toy theater piece called Unauthorized Magic in Oz, I did.

Unauthorized Magic was a rare instance where I crossed my children’s books with my theater.  It was created for Great Small Works’ Toy Theater Festival, at St. Ann’s Warehouse.  It existed in two small but beautiful houses, built by Barry Weil and Berit Johnson and based on Eric Shanower’s illustrations of my Oz books.  Unusually, I performed a role, along with fellow cast members Tanya Khordoc, Barry Weil, and Talaura Harms.

The experience with Great Small Works is a great one.  There is a new Toy Theater Festival coming soon (featuring frequent collaborators Tanya Khordoc and Barry Weil’s play, Secrets History Remembers), and I highly recommend it.  We were in an evening with Brian Selznik’s play about Christine Jorgensen, which I loved.

The audiences oohed and aahed appropriately at the puppetry flourishes, but the Oz references escaped many.  Then we were asked to bring the show to the Munchkin Convention, the East Coast gathering of Oz fans being held in Princeton, New Jersey.

An audience full of Oz fans, many of whom had read my books (Paradox in Oz and The Living House of Oz), was a very exciting event.  They were enthusiastic about and responsive to every reference.  Eric, and the publisher David Maxine, also had a chance to see the work.  If a play ever had its ideal audience, it was then.
Tempus fugit!  Tanya Khordoc puppeteers.

Later, we brought the show to the Looking Glass Theater, and it received a wonderful review from Laurel Graeber at The New York Times ("exquisitely ingenious!").  But having an Oz audience who knew my work so intimately was really my ideal experience.

You can see a performance on YouTube—not, I think, the same as in person (and that particular show had definite glitches), but still, worth checking out, especially if you are a fan of Oz!

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