The Wiz - November 29 - December 09, 2018

Nyack College

 End Notes 

The Wiz: A Story of Unconditional Love and Human Dignity


The Wiz is more than just a reworking of The Wizard of Oz, a retelling from an African –American point of view of a classic taleDorothy’s journey from her home in Kansas to Oz and back to Kansas remains the story of a young woman who discovers her own worth and value, but in The Wiz, it is made very evident that Dorothy’s journey of self-discovery is made possible by the strong foundation of a loving home provided by Aunt Em and Uncle Henry.  Indeed, Aunt Em’s song of love to Dorothy, “Put Your Arms Around Me,” lays out the basic theme that unconditional love is essential for any human being to discover self-worth and dignity.


While unconditional love, like Aunt Em’s, is the key for the beginning of Dorothy’s journey, The Wiz also demonstrates that Dorothy needs to share that love with others, develop compassion for the friendless, and to confront and overcome the temptation to be indifferent to the pain, isolation and loneliness of others.  As in all classic comedies, Dorothy is exiled from home: she is taken away to the dreamland of Oz so that she can learn the truth about herself that she is a loved and loving person and that she can overcome the temptation to avoid those who need love.


In Oz, Dorothy must first learn to have compassion for others who are unlovable in differing degrees, and like the Good Samaritan, she must act on that compassion and provide tangible help to those she finds along the Yellow Brick Road.  Her encounters with Scarecrow, TinMan and Lion present her with increasingly difficult tests when it comes to demonstrating compassion and providing assistance.  The Scarecrow’s brainless behavior has left him powerless to move away from the belittling words of the Crows; the TinMan’s heartless actions have cut him off from human contact and given him the hard exterior of base metal; and the Lion’s fear and cowardice have been masked by abusive and dominating behaviors toward others.  Because love has been unconditionally and abundantly given to Dorothy, she in turn is able to give love to Scarecrow, TinMan and Lion.  In addition, she must learn that all people have value and deserve the opportunity to travel along the road that leads to recognition of self-worth, the path to human dignity and true freedom.


The road that leads us to the recognition of our own value as human beings is not just a road that leads us to opportunities to show compassion and love, but it is also a road that takes us into the darker voids of self-doubt and defeatism that lurk within us.  Neither the Wizard nor the Emerald City is the end of the journey where self-worth is validated.  Instead, they are palpable temptations to remove our sight from those who need love and help and to focus our eyes instead on the glittering and ephemeral pursuit of power, prestige and money.  Dorothy and her friends will come to realize that the Wizard cannot offer love and the Emerald City is not the path that leads to self-worth and so at first they become angry that they have been cheated.  Then Dorothy learns that the Wiz too needs her love and compassion.


It is ironic that the Wizard points Dorothy and her friends to the most important part of their journey—the confrontation and defeat of the refusal to acknowledge that people are wounded and need the healing that love, compassion and tangible assistance afford.  The Wicked Witch of the West is evil, not because she is innately evil, but because she does not want to hear about brainless, heartless and cowardly behaviors and so she keeps others from the path that leads to acknowledgement of self-worth and thus freedom.  She has closed her ears to the cries of those in need; she has no love.  Her song, “No Bad News,” indicates the extent to which she has shut herself off from her fellow human beings because of their imperfections.  The melting of this temptation to indifference, embodied in the Wicked Witch, allows Dorothy and her friends to sing the powerful anthem to human dignity and freedom, “Everybody Rejoice.”  They shout “Hallelujah” at the opening of this number because the chains of indifference have been thrown off and they can return to the Wiz confident in what they have learned about themselves.


The Wiz is a powerful tale of redemption for Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion and even the Wiz himself as they have also learned to share the love that Dorothy gave them with others.  Dorothy’s journey ends when Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, sings the very moving “Believe in Yourself.” This number, in which Aunt Em joins Glinda in singing, affirms that Dorothy has learned the lesson that the foundation of unconditional love that she has received made it possible for her to give love to others and defeat the evil of indifference—that she has value as a human being.  And with that knowledge, Dorothy can give of herself so that many can rejoice and shout “Hallelujah.”


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