A gaggle of Dorothys observe this year’s parade during Oz-Stravaganza! 2012. One adorable child in front happens to be wearing Silver Shoes!
So many parallels between art and life this past weekend that my mind is still reeling! I returned to Kansas on Tuesday from the marvelous land of Oz-Stravaganza!, located in the Village of Chittenango in central New York. There may be no place like home, but there is no place like this popular annual festival either.
They say a picture paints a thousand words, give or take, so hang onto your pointed witch hats, because I have plenty of both to share with you now!
See if this doesn’t sound vaguely familiar.
I was swept into the air (via Delta Airlines and the festival’s fabulous travel agent Judy Dardzinski) this past weekend, straight from my Kansas home to a quaint village located among the lush trees with a curious road of yellow bricks near the center of town …
A jolly roadside sign welcomes all travelers to the birthplace of Oz author and creator L. Frank Baum.
The sidewalk on both sides of the main street is a Yellow Brick Road.
It wasn’t my first time as a visitor in this land. They had sent for me again because of my previous encounter with the Wicked Witch of the West. Their theme this year, you see, was “The Wonderful Witches of Oz!”
Oz-Stravaganza! co-chair Barbara Evans and committee member Lynne Bunce in Glinda’s Royal Tent proudly wear the “good witch” and “bad witch” T-shirts designed by fellow committee member Dennis Kullis.
The cast of memorable characters who joined me on this journey proved to be an endless source of humor, intelligence, passion, bravery, magic, and inspiration, led by our grand marshal for the festival’s parade, none other than Gregory Maguire, best-selling author of “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.” This groundbreaking 1995 novel inspired three sequels and a smash-hit Broadway musical in 2003 that is still packing theatres around the globe.
I met Gregory for the first time at our book-signing held in the small gym at Chittenango High School on Friday night, June 1. Fellow Ozian author James C. Wallace II snapped a great photo, too!
Paul Miles Schneider sits with Gregory Maguire while he signs Paul’s first edition of “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.” (Photo courtesy of James C. Wallace II.)
My room at the Craftsman Inn in Fayetteville, NY, was filled with Stickley furniture and a welcome basket of goodies from the festival’s committee.
Pre-festival publicity! WMCR-FM’s morning talk show, “Learn & Laugh With Linda.” I was featured on May 30th’s program along with two others from the festival. (Left to right: host Linda Wimmer, Paul Miles Schneider, festival co-chair Colleen Zimmer, and Emmy-winner and Oz expert John Fricke.)
If this sounds like a continuation of previous events, it was … in more ways than one! My “Silver Shoes” sequel,“The Powder of Life,” made it’s debut at the festival! And by Saturday night, with a Sunday signing remaining, I had already sold out of all the hardcover copies I brought with me! I didn’t think they would go quite so fast, but I was thrilled! It’s a good problem to have.
Paul Miles Schneider signs copies of his new book “The Powder of Life” at Chittenango High School on Friday, June 1, 2012.
Not long after I arrived in this curious land, I met the Wizard himself—André De Shields! He created the title role in “The Wiz,” the 1975 Tony Award -winning musical hit that ran seven years on Broadway!
Host John Fricke (right) interviews the Wiz, André De Shields (left) for Saturday evening’s free program in the high school auditorium. André wore his original form-fitting costume from the show, designed by the legendary Geoffrey Holder. That was 37 years ago, and he can still rock these incredible threads, not to mention the five-inch heels on the platform boots!
André was a delight the entire weekend. I was so grateful for the opportunity to meet and talk at length with such a talented, intelligent, and creative man.
Perhaps my favorite photo of the weekend! Proving that this unique festival truly is “all things Oz,” pictured here is Bob Baum, great-grandson of Oz creator L. Frank Baum, with a trio of ladies from the 1939 MGM classic film (left to right: Myrna Swenson, wife of Munchkin soldier Clarence Swenson, Caren Marsh-Doll, who was Judy Garland’s stand-in for Dorothy, and Margaret Pellegrini, the flower-pot Munchkin herself), plus André De Shields, the original “Wiz” from the 1975 Broadway musical. It just doesn’t get better than this. The book, the movie, and the musical, all in one shot!
“And you and you and you … and you were there!”
Authors Alley was abuzz again this year with returning guests James C. Wallace II, Ron Baxley, Jr., and Gwendolyn Tennille, along with a couple of new arrivals: Tom Huchison, the co-founder of Big Dog Ink comics and creator of “The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West” graphic novels, and Felicia Ricci, who was Eden Espinosa’s standby for Elphaba in the San Francisco company of “Wicked.” She wrote a biography of her life and adventures, called “Unnaturally Green.”
Authors and special guests Paul Miles Schneider (“Silver Shoes” and “The Powder of Life”) and Felicia Ricci (“Unnaturally Green”). This photo was taken at our wrap party on Sunday, June 3, 2012.
There were so many indelible moments it’s hard to whittle the memories down to a manageable recounting. But I will leave you with a sampling of them here …
Paul Miles Schneider with Caren Marsh-Doll at the wrap party for Oz-Stravaganza! 2012. Caren was Judy Garland’s stand-in as Dorothy in MGM’s “The Wizard of Oz.” It’s hard to believe that film is 74 years old now, and the gorgeous, charming, four-foot-eleven Caren is a stunningly youthful 93!
MGM Munchkin-by-marriage Myrna Swenson with Paul Miles Schneider at the Oz-Stravaganza! wrap party on Sunday, June 3, 2012.
The delightful, generous, and truly funny Marc Baum, Oz-Stravaganza! committee member extraordinaire!
Bob Baum, great-grandson of L. Frank Baum, relaxing (for all of three seconds before he has to be somewhere) in the lobby of the Craftsman Inn, where most of the festival guests were staying. For me, Bob will always the (Tin Woodman’s) heart of any Oz event he attends. His passion for the family legacy as well as his nurturing of others who celebrate and continue this legacy is unmatched. The Baum family couldn’t ask for a better and more enthusiastic spokesperson.
Authors Tom Hutchison and Paul Miles Schneider congratulate one of the winners of this year’s Writer’s Chair Awards in the Chittenango High School library on Friday, June 1, 2012.
After donating his original green-tinted glasses worn in the Broadway musical, “The Wiz” to the All Things Oz museum, André De Shields (right) receives the key to the city from the mayor of Chittenango (left), Ronny Goeler.
My POV of the parade from the inside of a convertible as I was driven slowly down the main street of town, smiling, waving, and snapping photos of the crowds!
The wonderfully warm people, especially the children, who passed by my signing table inside Glinda’s Royal Tent.
And last, but in no way least, an impromptu and emotionally stirring duet from Saturday night’s free program at the high school. Fourteen-year-old local student Julia Goodwin (with an incredible voice) was joined on stage by veteran Felicia Ricci, who was a standby for Elphaba in the San Francisco company of “Wicked.” Many there, including me, wiped away the tears after they sang with only one microphone between them and a quick run-through, five minutes before they did this:
A job well done and a fond but melancholy farewell the morning after. Festival co-chairs Barbara Evans and Colleen Zimmer with MGM Munchkin Margaret Pellegrini in the lobby of our hotel as, one by one, the guests begin to leave … until we meet again, dear travelers.
Two quick post-festival moments I will never forget (before this blog entry turns into my third novel) …
Local travel agent extraordinaire Judy Dardzinski (second from the left) arranged for me and a few of my Ozzy pals to have a private tour of the Stickley Furniture Factory located in Manlius, NY. Several of us are huge fans of their incredible craftsmanship and artistry. To our great delight, we were welcomed in the lobby by the company’s owner and president, Mrs. Aminy Audi (far right). Our full group (left to right): Jane Albright, Judy Dardzinski, Ryan Zlomek, Lynn Beltz, Colleen Zimmer, Clare Baum, Paul Miles Schneider, Katie Newcomb, and Mrs. Aminy Audi.
Jane Albright sits and reflects on a fallen log in Bear Creek. This secluded locale was once Frank Baum’s childhood playground when it was part of the family’s farm called Rose Lawn, located in Syracuse, NY. Guiding our small group along the way through several points of interest was Baum family historian Kathleen Di Scenna, who helped us step back in time to where it all began.