Why Use Scenic Projections For The Wizard Of Oz?

Broadway Media’s social media manager and theatre-maker, Caleb, shares his journey down the Yellow Brick Road.

Ever since childhood, I've been captivated by The Wizard of Oz. The story and beloved characters are so familiar—it's almost like they've become a part of me through the years. The timeless quality, excitement, and wonder of all things Oz extends beyond the boundaries of imagination. So, it's no wonder the original book by L. Frank Baum, and the many adaptations that have followed have endured the tests of time. 

I wouldn’t call myself a total subject matter expert—but my knowledge and passion for Oz have led to involvement in many Oz-related projects. I can say my favorite has been performing as the Tin Man at the Land of Oz Theme Park in North Carolina—while recently, I had the privilege to serve as assistant director for a production of The Wizard of Oz with my local community theatre.

Dorothy, Cowardly Lion, Tin Man (Me), and Scarecrow at Land of Oz Theme Park

As any fellow theatre-maker who has produced this show for the stage might say, it can be quite an undertaking. There tends to be an unspoken understanding that, “If you're gonna do Oz, it's gotta be good.” What does that mean exactly? With the general familiarity of the story, there are expectations from both the audience and your cast and crew. Some may expect to see the 1939 movie on stage, whereas others might look to see how the production creatively pays homage to the film while being unique at the same time. Additionally, your team must have a strategy for various special effects and scene changes. 

With this in mind, we began our production, setting goals of meeting as many expectations as possible. I was thrilled to be a part of a production with a highly passionate creative team that wanted to do its best to wow the audience. 

With the bar set high, we immediately began purchasing costume pieces, props, make-up, the works; we even commissioned a custom pair of Ruby Slippers for our Dorothy. Since The Wizard of Oz features many settings and locations, our design team bought a lot of lumber and other materials to build set pieces we would need to create Kansas and the magical land of Oz. We began rehearsals, and our production was underway!

The Poppy Field before reaching Emerald City

From the beginning, we were faced with various obstacles and boundaries in our journey down the Yellow Brick Road. However, the biggest challenge for us was using rented space we hadn't used before. While this certainly affected many aspects of our show, no one felt it more than our set design team. 

Since our show wasn't housed in our rented location full-time, sets were being built at one of our team member's homes. Measurements of the stage were all they had to reference and create from. While this may be a common practice for most theatres, it made a bit of a headache for us as we knew we couldn't see or test the set pieces in the space until tech week, just days before the show opened. What if something was too big or small to fit on stage or through a door? What if our cast couldn’t safely perform with large set pieces? Will we have wasted all that money on lumber if something doesn't work? You name it, we had what I call a "worry question" about it.

Did I also mention this was all happening at the beginning of 2020? It certainly was, and sadly for us, the worst outcome occurred. Our show was postponed and later canceled entirely due to the pandemic. Two years later, the costumes, make-up, and, yes, the set pieces are sitting in a storage unit collecting dust.

Our production of The Wizard of Oz has been the story of many theatres over the last two years. For some, it's still happening. With high hopes of producing Oz again in the future, I think back on that time and consider ways to avoid some of the pitfalls and losses. Having that in mind, here are some questions I ask myself:

  • How can we save some stress about having all the sets we need? 
  • Is there a way to have every magical moment in the show?
  • Could we have a tornado on stage?
  • What about Glinda's bubble? Can we do that?
  • How can I take some of my set design's budget and buy better costumes?

The list could go on and on. The good news is, there's a solution—and that solution is Scenic Projections!

Glinda's bubble arrives in Munchkinland

Broadway Media's Scenic Projections for The Wizard of Oz were inspired by the splendor of the 1939 film. With a design brought to life in full 3-D animated color, the audience can skip alongside Dorothy as she journeys down the Yellow Brick Road. Every show-stopping, magical moment is included in this digital scenery package. 

Each scene is carefully matched as we begin with the sepia-toned Kansas farm. One of my favorite things about these projections is how they move throughout each location. This allows Dorothy to run from the river bank back to the farm as the tornado approaches. The interior of the tornado, the spinning farmhouse, and more are shown as the tornado ultimately catapults the house into the brightly colored Munchkinland. When Glinda arrives, her bubble floats from distant skies all the way to the stage. Each scene, setting, and magical moment is there—allowing you to break the boundaries and overcome the obstacles like our design team faced.

To sum it up, I wish we had known about Broadway Media when we were producing our show. I'm thrilled to say the next time I take a trip to Emerald City, it will be with Scenic Projections!

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