Can We Learn from The Wizard of Oz?
The Wizard of Oz is
so near and dear to Julienne La Fleur's heart, she wrote
her first book, , about the timeless
jewels of wisdom imparted in the movie. La Fleur published
the book this month, on the eve of the 70th anniversary of
the classic movie's release in 1939. A founder of the whimsically
La Fleur has always believed in comedy, music and cheerful
dance as essential pastimes to accompany our journeys along
life's yellow brick road. She recently answered questions
for the Gate about her book, the tale on which it's
based, and her memories of Smith.
from your perspective is the significance of the anniversary
of The Wizard of Oz premiere?
Julienne La Fleur: The
premiere is a subtle reminder that great story telling can
stand the test of time. L. Frank Baum’s book The
Wonderful Wizard of Oz came over a hundred years ago,
in 1900. Both the story and the movie are true classics.
Also, this is a chance
for a new generation to see the movie on the big screen.
Warner Bros is planning to screen the movie in high def
across the country for one night, on September 23. If you
have a chance, see it on the big screen. The TV doesn’t do it justice—the sets and characters
are meant to be seen bigger than life. You’ll see why
I consider it a great comedy!
in a sentence, can we learn from the classic story?
JLF: I wrote
a whole book! But if I had to distill it into one sentence:
Along the yellow brick road of your life, if you remember
to travel with love, wisdom, and courage, you have the power
within you to make your dreams come true.
would you recommend your fellow Smithies celebrate the upcoming
JLF: 3 suggestions:
1) If you can, see the movie on the big screen. It’s
spectacular! 2) Dorothy is asked by Glinda at the end of
the movie what she learned. Dorothy say, “…If
I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t
look any further than my own backyard.” To honor the
story, it would be great to take a minute to reflect and
be grateful for all that we have that we take for granted.
3) Laugh the day away! When the group arrives in Muchkinland
they sing that silly tune, “Ha-ha-ha, ho-ho-ho,
and a couple of tra-la-las/ That’s how we
laugh the day away In the Merry old land of Oz.” I
really think we could and should laugh as much as we can.
Too often, as grown-ups we are taking things far too seriously.
are some of the most powerful images that come to mind for
you from The Wizard of Oz?
Lessons from Oz by
Julienne La Fleur. (Click on image for more information.)
JLF: 1) When
Dorothy opens the door and everything goes from black and
white to Technicolor, it’s a complete surprise
on your eyes. 2) The vista where they see Emerald City from
afar. 3) The sets and special effects are so amazing! Even
today they look great--that was special effects history in
The music is what really
gets my toes tapping. The songs are so catchy and uplifting.
Little known Oz fact: At the first sneak preview to test
audiences they removed “Over
the Rainbow” from the movie. Thank goodness they had
the sense to put it back in, Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg
won an Oscar for it.
You didn’t ask,
but the least powerful image for me is the flying monkeys!
Everyone always asks me about them, and tells me how they
were totally afraid of them and had nightmares. Could someone
please tell me why they were so scary?
are your standout memories from life at Smith?
JLF: Too many
to count (and some will go with me to my grave). But: 1)
Mountain day (and the anticipation of) was always so exciting.
When oh when will it be? Then the ding-dong of the bells
through the Quad, and still half awake, stumbling into the
hall and everyone was a-twitter! 2) Maya Angelou came to
do a reading at John M. Greene Hall. She was dressed in sequins
from head to toe in the most glamorous gown, and then she
spoke and took my breath away with her words. 3) Entire
weekends spent in PJ’s, sitting in the hallway
playing hand after hand of card games.
Mostly, I remember the
little things vividly: A first big snowscape from my window-seat
view; sitting on the stone bench, overlooking Paradise
Pond and writing; campus in the fall; the ambience of dinner
by candlelight; the silence of the dining room at 3 a.m.
trying to finish a paper; laughing until it hurt (at least
once a week) with the very best friends you’ll ever
inspired you to start SIKOS?
JLF: As a theater
major and young lady who dreamed of being on Saturday
Night Live someday, I wished there was a group that performed around
campus like the singing groups. So my pals and I started
it our senior year, and it was a blast!
After leaving Smith, I had no idea that the younger members
kept SIKOS going. About five years ago, while nostalgically
perusing the Smith Web site, my jaw dropped to see that our
little group was still going. It was so incredible to think
I started something that keeps people laughing, and young
women creating their own comedy.
did you embark on the writing life?
chose me. Unwittingly, I might add. For who would choose
the blank page, the solitude, the angst of rewriting ad nauseam
and hoping and praying that when you read it a week later
you won’t have
to scrap it and start all over?
I spent my junior year at The University of Michigan. The
only class left that would apply to my major was playwriting.
To get in the class I had to submit writing samples (of which
I had none) and interview with the professor. After scribbling
a bunch of stuff on the fly and faking my way through the
interview, I had one class assignment and was hooked on writing.
Gate: : What
role did writing play in your life as a Smith student?
JLF: Even before
the playwriting, I was always writing in a journal, poems,
etc. I don’t think I ever thought I’d
write a book. But the ideas choose you, and if you have the
gumption to see them through, that is the whim of the creative
process. We writers just have to follow creative orders from
the universe. That nagging inner voice that says this is
a really great idea, get that notebook out!