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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Wicked: The Rest of the Story


We saw the Broadway hit Wicked on Saturday. I know I probably should have seen it before now, but have not I have not seen it due to my lack of interest in the Wizard of Oz. By lack of interest I mean that I have never sat down to watch the whole movie. There is no doubt that I have seen the movie in its entirity, perhaps even three or four times, but I have never followed Dorthy down the yellow brick road from start to finish.

All of that said, Wicked (for those who don't know) is the prequal/connector to the famous Wizard of Oz. In this story the Wicked Witch, far from being wicked, is loving and kind, and experiences discrimination for being green. As she begins sorcery school, her powers are unlike anything the people of Oz have ever seen. They follow Glenda, Alphie, Boq, and others giving background to many of the characters in WOZ (my abv. for Wizard of Oz). In addition you see how the lion, tinman, and scarecrow all grow into their respective situations. However the focus of Wicked is to show that it is not as simple as the Wicked Witch being evil. Rather, they invite the us to see that there is a greater context beyond the straightforward struggle between right and wrong that we are so familiar with in the WOZ.

This story is very different from the Wizard of Oz. In WOZ
we are left with a cut-and-dried story. There is good = Dorthy. There is evil = The Witch. In the end a moral is learned, good has prevailed, and evil has been vanquished. The audience assumes this, because they believes that they have access to all the pertinent facts of the story. We assume we know the whole story.

However Wicked gives us a welcomed reminder and lesson for life.
While The Wizard of Oz would have us believe that the battle between good and evil in Oz is simple, Wicked tells us that there is more, much more, to the story than meets the eye. It reminds us that the story we "know" may in fact be naive or uninformed. I imagine many people read or watch Wicked and leave knowing that they will never be able to view WOZ in the same way.

As I was sitting in the theater before the play began I mentioned to my father in law that I had never seen the WOZ from start to finish. The woman in the row in front of us turned around in disbelief. She went on to say that her daughter had watched WOZ so many times before she turned five that she could quote the entire movie (much like Taryn and Apollo 13).

After the show was over I was reflecting on how this girl must have felt watching the back story of the "wicked" witch. Everything she had known about good and evil, the witch and glenda, dorthy and the scarecrow...it all had changed. She had been quoting the familiar Oz story since she was five but now had to revaluate all she knew of the characters because she had new information.

It seems to me that we live our lives this way. Only knowing one side of the story. Watching it over and over and over again until we have it memorized. Knowing exactly what the truth is. Knowing good from evil, right from wrong. We stay in the stories that reenforce these ideas and refuse to listen/engage/ask about a new story. We create sub-cultures and sub-narratives that tell us we know the best way to live life.

And yet there is a different story than the ones we know. A different narrative, culture, religion, tradition, family, city, way of relating, etc. But are we willing to wonder? Are we willing to ask? Are we willing to consider that the story we quote is only part of a larger story?

I pray that I live life with this curiosity.

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