20 March 2012

A Play Grows in Brooklyn

The New York Times’s SchoolBook webpages (“News, data, and conversation about schools in New York City”) is running a multi-part article about a production of The Wizard of Oz at P.S. 29 in Brooklyn. Helene Stapinski titled her autobiographical account “The Munchkins Are a Problem: One Mom’s Struggle to Direct the Fifth-Grade School Play.”

Part 1 starts in medias res before flashing back:
“Lollipop Guild! Lollipop Guild!” Gina, the director, shouts. The whole scene comes to a crashing stop. “Can you look a little happy? The witch is dead, you know.”
In Part 2, Stapinski doesn’t realize she’s found one of her Cowardly Lions:
Crockett — whom we haven’t played with since second grade, when he accidentally pushed Dean off the edge of a very high playground slide, resulting in an emergency room visit — is actually very sweet. But he is a rolling, flaming ball of energy, pretending to be a dog and barking at everyone in the room.
In Part 3, the director evidently buys a script off the back of a truck:
Over the Christmas holiday, Gina sends me a “Wizard of Oz” script, which she has purchased for $100 and says needs some tweaking in the opening scene. When I look at the script, I realize it needs more than tweaking. It needs to be totally rewritten. It is nothing like the film version or even the book version and involves blue people, yellow people and red people who narrate most of the story. . . .

Gina makes copies of the script and brings them to the first real rehearsal. She has failed to bind them together, though. She has also failed to put page numbers on them. These two seemingly small missteps add up to a catastrophe. The children, probably 20 out of 30 of them, drop the script repeatedly onto the floor and have no way of putting them back together correctly.
And since the headline says Stapinski ended up being the director instead of Gina, I sense more drama on the way. The articles don’t link from one weekly installment to the next, but clicking on Stapinski’s byline brings them all up.

(Photo above courtesy of the P.S. 29 community via the New York Times.)


Nathan said...

I guess that cut-rate script includes Baum's color scheme. I wonder if it's book-based instead of movie-based, or if that's just true in that one element.

J. L. Bell said...

If the script says the narrators are actually blue, yellow, and red, then we might say it's Neill's color scheme.

The writer says the first draft of the script was true neither to the movie nor the book, but except for that detail she doesn't say anything else about it, and the deviations are thus a mystery.

I'm quite sure there are licensed adaptations of the MGM movie for school use, but they probably come with a production fee. That might explain the desire to try a new approach to the original, public-domain story.