I had a crazy “talking to the TV” moment this evening that helped me figure out the reason behind my lifelong obsession with “The Wizard of Oz.” (It turns out it’s about more than show tunes and ruby slippers.)
My girls were making every effort to distract me as I tried to watch one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert (author of “Eat, Pray, Love”) in a TV appearance with Oprah. The two women were discussing the mythical hero quests that have been present in stories in every culture on every continent since the beginning of time–stories in which a young, restless soul sets off on a quest, encounters trials, tests and temptations, adopts new, trusted friends, becomes armed for an epic battle, and returns home a victorious hero.
Liz and Oprah noted that (as mythology scholar Joseph Campbell has pointedly demonstrated) these stories almost always have a male protagonist. A HE-ro.
BUT WHAT ABOUT DOROTHY?!
I found myself almost shouting to the television. Her journey down the yellow brick road to find what lies over the rainbow fits every mythological milestone required by a hero quest – AND – much to my delight, includes sparkly ruby slippers and two bada$$ witches.
In the next segment of the show, an image of Dorothy and her friends on their way to Oz popped up in a montage of heroes. (“YES!” I told the TV. “Thank you!”)
She was the perfect heroine for the little girl I was back when I pulled up my tiny rocking chair in front of the television set one magical evening each year to watch the 1939 film being broadcast on network TV.
She’s also the perfect heroine for me today as I keep finding new bends in my yellow brick road.
And she’s the perfect hero for my girls, the older of whom is about to join her theatre-loving mama on stage this December at the Civic Theatre as a Munchkin. It’s the same role that provided me a magical initiation to musicals when I was about her age.
This will be my fourth theatrical trip “over the rainbow,” and undoubtedly the most special.
It’s our own mother-daughter hero quest:
Mine: to make space in my consuming life for this storytelling art form that I can’t feel fully alive without.
Hers: to conquer self-conscious fear, sing her heart out and embrace the spotlight.
I know there’s no place like home.
But for now, we’re off to see the Wizard.