Oz Play Coming Here

July 11, 2018 

On New Year’s Eve, 1908, The Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum announces to his audience that his theatrical production has been cancelled. Since the writer can’t give the audience a show, he gives them the story of how he transformed his fears and failures into the great American fairy tale. Dr. John Newman tells this story in his solo play, The Man Behind the Curtain.

Dr. John Newman will perform his solo play The Man Behind the Curtain in Fergus Falls on Tuesday, July 31. Performance will take place at the Otter Tail County Historical Society’s (1110 Lincoln Ave. W.) Community Picnic at noon and at PioneerCare (1131 S. Mabelle Ave.) at 3 p.m. Both events are open to the public and admission is free.

The main character in the play is L. Frank Baum, best known as the author of The Wizard of Oz and 13 other Oz books. The play is set on the stage of the Hudson Theatre as Baum’s latest theatrical production has been cancelled and the “Royal Historian of Oz” offers the audience his own story of how he found his way to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Before finding his calling as a writer of children’s stories, Baum struggled to make his living as an actor, director, playwright, store-owner, baseball team secretary, small-town newspaper editor, big city newspaper reporter, and traveling salesman. In the play, L. Frank Baum tells how each of his professions developed his abilities as a storyteller and how he transformed his dreams and nightmares into his best known story. His life intersects with American notables including author Charles Dickens, inventor Thomas Edison, and his mother-in-law and women’s suffrage leader, Matilda Joslyn Gage.

Dr. Newman taught and directed theatre at Highland High school for 18 years. He has been a professor of theatre and director of the Theatre for Youth and Education Center at Utah Valley University since 2010. He researched the life and writings of L Frank Baum for a year, created the initial script for three months. During his fall 2016 residency at the Open Eye Theater in Margaretville, New York, he rehearsed and performed the play under the direction of Dr. Tania Myren. He has since performed the play in Syracuse, New York, where Baum grew up; in Coronado, California, where the author wrote four of the early Oz books; and in New York City, where Baum’s 1908 stage spectacular closed. In May, he will perform the play in Macatawa Park, Michigan, where the writer wrote his Mother Goose and Father Goose books that preceded The Wizard of Oz.

For details about the Otter Tail County Historical Museum performance, contact the museum at 218-736-6038. For details about the PioneerCare performance, call 218-998-1500.

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