ELEMENTS OF OZ draws on one of the richest examples of escapist American entertainment, The Wizard of Oz. We revel in the multiplicity of interpretations of this iconic example of popular culture, and examine how tens of thousands of people across the country (and across the globe) have made Oz their own. Through the use of YouTube tributes, a re-contextualization of the film, and the incorporation of new technologies, ELEMENTS OF OZ celebrates and deconstructs this incredibly rich cultural artifact.
In much the same way the classic MGM movie transported us from the stark black and white of Kansas to a vibrant Technicolor Oz, this piece introduces new technology, which also enlivens and deepens the audience’s experience. For this show, you leave your cell phone on - the stage action is enhanced by interactivity with viewers' smart phones through a unique app that we developed, delivering the Technicolor Land of Oz of our imaginations. This ground-breaking way of bringing personal technology into the theater uses augmented reality to show a transparent layer of the poppy fields and flying monkeys, as well as sending video and sound cues to each phone. The New York Times described one moment like this:
“One of the most charming uses of smartphone technology: when the song [Somewhere Over the Rainbow] strikes up, myriad self-made videos posted to YouTube of all and sundry singing that classic tune suddenly appear on phones and tablets all over the theater, so that a whole chorus sings along from cyberspace. It’s an ineffably sweet moment that illustrates the pervasive cultural reach of the movie”
ELEMENTS OF OZ is a mash-up of texts including excerpts from the original book, and testimonials from YouTube Oz fans on their various interpretations of the film, which range from the “Friends of Dorothy” to the debates over the gold standard in the 1880s, to the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon as the movie soundtrack. We also include interviews with some characters not obviously linked to Oz such as Salman Rushdie and Ayn Rand. Throughout it all, we follow a narrator who provides us with juicy background details about the making of the film as famous moments are re-created live on stage.
Using a simple stage set and three powerful performers, this production presents a double-edged sword by staging a robust dialog between the analog and the virtual. Theater has traditionally celebrated live performance and is born from the idea that people come together to witness a live event onstage. But what happens if the performance, while live, cannot truly be ‘seen’ without Oz’s fantastical devices? We aim to provoke an awareness of our dependence on these devices - necessary to enter the “Land of Oz.“