The Fox at Dawn

Land of Oz: five
This is part five of an experiment chronicling my production of the All-School outdoor CDC compliant production of Wizard of Oz with 104 students aged 6-19, an utterly insane thing to do. But golly we are having fun actually doing something instead of just talking about it. Using our bodies and hearts and hands and voices instead of just our wheel spinning minds.
How large everything seems to the small.

I walk a long line of winged monkeys
From the first and second grades 
Down the hall of possibilities
Through paint and peppermint
Past yarn flowers and poetry,
Around Basquiat pastels and revolutionaries, 
Across habitats and treasure maps,
On the way to rehearse our wicked monkey ways.
Little Ava walks beside me in the lead,
Telling me proudly this is her third show,
How first she was a squirrel and then a frog.
I remember, I say, with a smile behind my mask.
She whispers as we turn the corner to middle school-

I heard some of the monkeys will capture Dorothy.
Yes, I say, it’s true. Two monkeys will fly her away to the witch’s castle.
Will they get to touch Dorothy?
Her reverence brings me to a stop.
Why yes, they will. 

Oh I hope it’s me, she says softly with all the longing in the world,
I just want to do something important.

Land of Oz: four
The Wizard
Is no wizard.
He’s a sixth grade boy 
Named Anthony.
An earnest boy
New to the school
Who spent the year 
perched on the edge 
of a homeroom 
full of rock stars 
and little generals.

Before it all began outside of my own head, I held a Zoom meeting, 
and told everyone that the leads would most likely come from the high school. 
Then I got this email:

	Dear Mrs. Crawford (because everyone my age is a Mrs.)

I don't know if you remember me 
but I shadowed for the 6th grade class
December 4th in 2019 
I am also the kid who asked 
if he could be 
the Wizard of Oz. 

I just wanted to give a reason why-

In the movie they are trying to find 
the Wizard  
and they think of him 
as the strongest man in the world. 
When they pull back the curtain 
they are disappointed. 
Well, I am not very threatening 
and I am not all big and bad, 
So, when they pull back the curtain 
They’ll be disappointed to find 
that a 12 year old boy 
is the Wizard of Oz.

Sorry about the long email,
Sincerely Anthony

One good thing about me- 
I know a good idea when I hear one. 
Reader, I cast him.
And he already knows his lines.

Land of Oz: three

Teachers aren’t supposed
To have favorites.
But to hell with it,
My favorite is Toto.


Over a year-
Speaking to screens
And tiny boxed faces
Pushing words around 
The vertical page,
Flattening the world
Into a screen share,
Sending my voice
Into the void------

I spend the sun bright morning
Unpacking a recent costume donation
A Christmas morning of airing out
Someone else’s dreams
Sixty year old handsewn sequined
Razzle dazzle let’s put on a show
Heart and soul for all to see
One show stopper after another
And there it is-
A shimmering pearlescent
Ivory beaded flapper dress
That makes its own light
Just the right size
Just what was needed.

I hang it on the rack 
next to Glinda’s name
and say to myself-
now we’re getting somewhere.

Ask just ask
The lesson I cannot seem to learn

I put out a list of things
Needed for the show
Items I don’t have or can’t find
Tasks that need other hands.
I tack it on to the
Weekly rehearsal reminder 
Sent out on Sunday afternoon
As it occurs to everyone at once
That a Monday morning looms.

Within minutes offers land like
Cards laid down by a Vegas dealer-
I can help paint
I can help sew if it’s by hand
I found these masks for you
What about these Fez hats for the flying monkeys?
Ordered and on their way, you should have them in two days.
Dizzying, the generosity of our little world.

So I’m giving it a shot
Since I may be on a roll.
World- can you send me a companion
For this my third act?
Kind and funny
Wicked when it suits us
Able to read my handwriting
Prospering and generous,
Good with all things money, 
Good with all the things I hate,
Open hearted as an old explorer,
Odysseus after he’s planted his oar.
Maybe throw in a home in New Zealand
Or Prince Edward Island?
Oh, and let him be patient,
Eternally patient,
With my blistered heart
As it gets used to safety,
Gets used to the feeling of home.

Land of Oz: two

Rehearsals continue for the biggest show I’ve ever directed in the shortest amount of time I’ve ever attempted. 104 young actors, k-12 in a great big outdoor play that moves from place to place. These are some snapshots. My first pass at trying to get at what compels me so about making theater with the young.

April 7th

Today was music day

At the piano like old times
In Tucker Hall
Our post war cafetorium
dark all this last year. 
People have trouble remembering
How to turn on the lights.

	A sudden wind blows
	In the smell of rain
	Coming soon.
	The trees dance.

It felt so good to us to be back again
Where we’ve all rehearsed so many things

        Go over 
        again and again
        Conjure the story
        Up out of the page.

Dorothy sings like an angel,
Everyone in school knows this.
No one could imagine a different Dorothy.

Tin Man’s voice has dropped so low
It needs a rescue party
To haul it to the note.

The Lion is afraid to sing.
Bold and hilarious in our small class,
Today she is hiding behind her mask.

The Scarecrow is in quarantine.
He visited a college over break
And now must bide his time.

One step at a time we go,
Trusting the path.

	Raining now
	Lightning and thunder
        Spring’s first.
        Resurrection rushes in.

I did an inventory of what I had stashed behind the stage from the last couple of productions, mostly pieces of the rigid foam insulation which is the best thing that has ever happened to school theater design. I congratulate myself that I found room to save all those large scrap pieces from when I cut out the giant cattails last year and the London skyline the year before that. These will do nicely for the Emerald City, painted green and made sparkly. The playground transformed. And I’ve got plenty of stone wall flats for the witch’s castle, I won’t have to buy any new sheets of insulation. Which is good because I’ve blown the budget on that revolving house.

April 8th

Emerald City.
Middle Schoolers.
So much to prove.
Bravado and bluster,
Bruising like peaches.

Playing on the playground
Explaining how the play
Moves from place to place
The audience must follow.
There are different ways to tell a story.

(God I hate directing through the mask. The wind the traffic the lawn mowers- my voice can’t cut through to their ears. I hate that I can’t see their whole faces. I hate that they can’t see mine.)

Movement is set
Direction is given
We play the scene
Seems simple, it’s not.
Seems easy, I’m glad.
It’s not.

The sky to the West is suddenly dark
The Witch seems to be making an entrance.
A few droplets and we make the call 
To evacuate Emerald City. 
We pack it up, 
Make sure everyone 
Has everything,
enter the Lower School doors 
and trek to the gym
From kindergarten to high school,
An entire childhood traversed in minutes.

The sky bursts 
Thunders down on the roof.
We giggle, we made it
Just in time.

Land of Oz: the beginning
April 10, 2021. The Redbuds are in their glory. This was drawn with their blooms, charcoal from the fireplace, red dirt from Georgia, wood poppies, violets and their leaves. Spring is undeniably here, and so is the Spring Musical.
The Land of Oz: a new project.

Because I am attracted to the impossible
And self-preservation is not my strong suit,
I am going to Oz,
And I’m taking 104 children with me.

This is not figurative language. Every year I direct the all-school musical at my K-12 school of 300 students. Anyone who wants to be in the play, is in the play. Usually I have between 80-85 kids performing in it, ages 6-18. It’s an insane thing to do in a normal year, but we do it anyway.  No one thought I would do a production this pandemic year, I was getting a bye if I wanted one. But back in the fall I started seeing it. Maybe we could do it outside in the late spring, keep the kids in their pods, limit the audience, make it a moveable feast. What if we did Wizard of Oz and we built the Land of Oz in the school’s huge backyard? What if the audience followed Dorothy and friends along the Yellow Brick Road? All the what ifs have become one big yes. 104 kids signed up, over one third of the whole school. After a locked down year, we are all starved for adventure and community. Hungry for theater that takes place outside of our minds. So now I am fully sucked into its cyclone. Only, I am also wondering, what if I write about it this time as it is happening? What if I let it take whatever form it likes? 

April 6th 2021
First day in Munchkinland

The sun shines down on the Munchkins
Spread around me
Grouped in their pods
On the basketball court,
Giddy wiggling
Their first rehearsal.

These opening days,
All is conjecture,
Castles in the air.

This is where Kansas will be
And here is where you live. 
There will be a huge nest on the top of the hill
And little houses- yes- you can go in them.
And Glinda will arrive driving a Frozen jeep
With a bubble machine.
And here, I say, waving my wand like
The Good Witch of the Aspirational,
Is where Dorothy’s house will be built.
         A real house?
Yes, and when the tornado comes-
         If this was a movie, it would be CGI.
Yes, but we’re lucky. This is theater. So it’ll be real.
Somehow the witch will appear here, 
and somehow (what a handy word)
we will magically get those ruby slippers on Dorothy’s feet.

It looks to the Munchkins
That I am directing
But really, I am thinking out loud
I am conjuring
Because any witch knows
You have to say the words 
If you want it to be true.
‘Somehow’ I say, ‘we will get
Those ruby slippers on Dorothy’s feet’
And in less than a minute
We have worked it out
It is entered in the stage manager’s bible
And now it is so.
I feel more powerful than I have felt in a long time.

Until you are inside theater making, 
you can’t really see that it’s an infinite puzzle, 
one you have created yourself 
simply by saying ‘Let’s put on a play’.
It is, I imagine, a lot like going to war
Only everyone lives to tell their own tale.
Everyone goes home victorious.

Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, in a quiet moment inside the Drama Cabin.