Rainbow to Oz: a New Musical A grownup Dorothy sings in Ozzy’s Bar and dreams she goes to Oz, meets a Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion, defies a Witch and Wizard, and learns that “You are stronger than any witch and all your fears. Home is where the heart is, and you can ride a Rainbow to Oz!”
Rainbow to Oz: A Tale of Two Bows!
When did my Rainbow to Oz journey begin – and how can you travel to a place of self-empowerment, love, joy, and beauty? It all started many years ago when I was a child. I was shy, but I loved reading and playing fantasy games. My favorite books were the Oz books, starting with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum in 1900. I imagined that, like Dorothy, I could also be magically transported to the Land of Oz. I thought, “If I keep trying, I’ll find a magical code to get to Oz!” Did I go to Oz? NO!
My “magical” code to take me to Oz didn’t quite work. So I tried other paths to Oznian glory. My summer camp put on a musical of The Wizard of Oz. Who was better suited to play “Dorothy” than me? I could sing, act, and dance, and I liked dogs. My camp was designed to teach American children (like me) Hebrew, so the musical was in Hebrew. Fortunately, I was good at words and more than willing to memorize The Wizard of Oz in Hebrew. Did I get the part? NO!
Most musical versions in the United States are not in Hebrew. (Hah!) Playing the role of Dorothy should be even easier in English (my native language). I already knew “Over the Rainbow,” which became Judy Garland’s signature song. Why couldn’t it be mine? Like the song, I asked: “Bird fly over the rainbow, why oh why can’t I?” Did I ever get to sing “Over the Rainbow?” YES! – in karaoke bars.
Singing in karaoke bars is not my day job. (Surprise!) For much of my working life, I have been an educator. Here are photos of me with my students at Borough of Manhattan Community College/City University of New York (BMCC/CUNY).
BMCC Classrooms: with my Students
My students are diverse, vulnerable, courageous, and have aspirations to a better life. I love our connection, and our classes have been infused with songs, humor, and lessons – both literary and life-lessons. I have continued to write and sing songs – sometimes to my students. The diversity and hopes of my students impact my own creativity. I love to create positive, literate entertainment – shows that are tuneful, clever, meaningful, fun, and encourage us to become our better selves.
Rainbow to Oz: a New Musical stands for diversity, pride, female-empowerment and fun! In Rainbow to Oz, Dorothy is grownup; her ruby slippers are now a red, musical scarf – a gift from Glen, who believes in her, as Glinda the Good Witch believed in my childhood heroine. Like Dorothy in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, she (and her Oznian friends) learn that they already have everything they need. We can stand up to any witch or bully, find friends and love, go for our dreams and “ride a Rainbow to Oz!”
Susan Horowitz (Dr. Sue) sings “Rainbow to Oz” and “I Wish Upon a Rainbow.”
My Zoom Opinion: To Say or Not? Dr. Sue Positive Entertainment: (How I Got Kicked Out of Zoom Class)
This Blog Post needs my short personal bio, so here goes. I’ve been an English/Theater Professor/Writer for over thirty years. (I stopped teaching about the time the pandemic hit in early 2020.) I have close relationships with some of my former students and a connection with my former college. I also have opinions.
Anyone who wants to keep a job (as I certainly did) knows that you sometimes swim in shark-infested waters. You learn to keep some of your opinions to yourself – especially in group meetings. This is especially true if you don’t have job security (which in academia means tenure).
But if you never say what you truly feel, your calculated, tactful silence tends to chip away at your self-esteem. Over time, those little bits of your true self get lost. Instead of the smart, vibrant, outspoken, fully alive person you used to be, you wind up as a weak, sad, timid ghost.
As any English/Theater Teacher, Actor, Theater Pro, or Amateur Nerd knows, the subject of ghosts brings us to… William Shakespeare! My main go-to ghost is Hamlet’s dead dad – Hamlet Senior, who gets the action (and non-action) into high gear.
Prince Hamlet, the hero of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, has a spooky, but motivational conversation with King Hamlet (the ghost). Ghost Hamlet tells Live Hamlet that his Uncle Claudius, the dead king’s brother, murdered him, married his widow (Queen Gertrude –Hamlet’s mom), and is now King of Denmark. Ghost Hamlet tells Hamlet to seek Revenge!Our hero Hamlet immediately… thinks about it!
What does this have to do with my getting kicked out of Zoom Class?
Like me, Hamlet talks to people (ghosts) who aren’t physically there. In my case, it’s Zoom Chats (the sidebars on Zoom classes and meetings where you type your thoughts to people who are somewhere in cyberspace. After Zoom, they vanish, like ghosts).
In Shakespeare’s play, old King Hamlet’s Ghost issues a call to action: kill your uncle! Hamlet decides that Ghost is right, and he should kill King Claudius – but on the other hand…. What if the ghost is wrong – or a fake ghost ? Instead of springing into action, Hamlet springs into depression. People think he’s mad (and maybe he is – or not). After several murders and suicides (Hamlet’s girlfriend, her father, her brother, Hamlet’s friends, his mother, Claudius, and, finally, Hamlet himself), the stage is littered with bodies, and the show is over. Denmark has a new King, and I’m ready for a coffee break (preferably with a Danish pastry because Shakespearean tragedy gives me an appetite).
How did a Shakespeare semi-scholar (me) get kicked out of Zoom class?
My Zoom class was not actually about Shakespeare, it was a series about musical theater, which tends to be less tragic (except for investors when the show closes on opening night). Our Teacher showed video clips from Broadway shows, led discussions in the Chat feature (where we post comments), and called himself an “Expert”. I didn’t bother looking up his academic credentials or affiliation, because I didn’t care. I already have a Ph.D. in Theater, so I don’t need academic credit. I was interested in the subject matter and what seemed to be an entertaining, informative experience. As long as I was enjoying the class, I didn’t need to know his professional history. I paid for an “All-Access Pass” which gave me full admission to his series of Zoom classes and videos. (Scroll down for my own Video – wearing my Shakespeare Hat and talking to Teddly Bear Puppet).
So there we were, several classes into the series, watching video clips and posting comments in the Chat. Most of the comments were posted to “Everyone” – which means everyone can read them. The other option is “Private” – which means only you and your chosen Zoom attendee reads your post. The “Expert” controlled the Chat. I usually posted supportive comments, but if I disagreed, I said so briefly without negative personal remarks.
I never posted political comments until… Cabaret. The musical Cabaret is set in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power. The in-cabaret performances echo the real-world events happening off-stage – including the growing threat of the anti-Semitic, violent Nazi regime. During the class, the teacher said that the Nazi idea of the German “folk” (ancient Germanic tribes) excluded all non-Aryans (like Jews).
I thought there was a parallel between the myth of the German “folk” and the Trumpian idea of the United States as an Anglo-Saxon country. (The Anglo-Saxons were Germanic tribes.)
I started posting a brief comment in the Chat about “Trump notion of the USA as an Anglo…” Then I accidentally pushed “Enter” which posted my half-sentence.
Before I could continue, the Teacher cut me off, and announced to “Everyone” in the Chat that if I posted political comments, I would be thrown out of class!
At first I thought: is this a mistake? He can’t mean me! Throw me out of class for one, brief remark? In my long career as an educator, students have said and done much more shocking things! I don’t throw them out of class. I usually ask to speak with them privately so we can solve the problem without a public confrontation. When this Zoom teacher threatened me and posted it to “Everyone” in the Chat, I felt embarrassed and attacked. I did not want to escalate the situation, so I didn’t post anything in reply. After a while, the class was over, with the Teacher soliciting and getting compliments about his class from some of my fellow students.
After class, I felt conflicted. Saying nothing would avoid immediate conflict. But keeping silent made me feel powerless and depressed. Why should this Zoom “expert” feel enttitled to embarrass me in front to the class – and for what – one half-sentence of a political opinion that he did not want to hear?
I decided to write an E-Mail to the Teacher and CC my E-mail it to his “Staff “– which probably meant his Assistant. Based on his class behavior, I figured that he might distort what actually happened. If I CC’d his Assistant, who seemed reasonable, she would have my written record. I also figured that since the Assistant was an African-American woman, she was more likely to understand my feelings than the White, male teacher. Here is my E-mail to the Teacher – CC’d to the Assistant.