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[PHOTOS]: From The Land Of Oz And Proud Of It

If you’re from Kansas, or even from Kansas City, Missouri, no matter where you go in the world, someone’s going to make a crack about Dorothy, or Toto.

Or how about this witty remark? “You’re not in Kansas any more, are you?”

The latest Hollywood blockbuster, Oz the Great and Powerful, brings it all back. The movie tells the back-story of the Wizard, who also happened to hail from Sunflower State.

But not everyone here  is trying to escape the legacy of The Wizard of Oz.  Jane Albright is a director of the International Wizard of Oz Club. She told KC Currents' Susan Wilson that she became fascinated with the Oz books when she was a child, growing up in Topeka, Kansas.

Interview highlights:

On the beginnings of her Oz affinity:

“I grew up in Topeka, KS in a house that had a shelf of Oz books. The Wizard of Oz is the first in a series of books that grew to have 40 titles. And I wanted to read all the books. I had to borrow them from neighbors and acquire them over the years. That turned me into a collector. In college I won a book-collecting contest. People began asking me questions about Oz as a piece of literature, or about the biographer, or about the MGM film and I usually didn’t know the answers. So at that point, I started reading the reference books, and the biographies, and material about Oz until now, here I am 30 years later just fully immersed…there are people whose expertise I would bow to in a heartbeat, but I do know an awful lot about Oz.”

On Oz the Great and Powerful:

“For a collector like me, I don’t think so much of the Great and Powerful compared to the MGM film, as the Great and Powerful compared to a much larger idea of what Oz is. Children will like it and I think that’s what would have mattered most to the author. It’s certainly not L. Frank Baum’s version of Oz. It’s not exactly MGM’s vision of Oz, but then neither is Wicked. It’s a wonderfully fun film...completely it’s own story.”

On Kansans’ reactions to Oz stereotypes:

“That’s certainly a legitimate reaction a lot of people could feel. From my perspective, Dorothy considered being from Kansas a wonderful thing. In one of the later Oz books, a princess asks her if she’s from royal blood and she says, ‘Oh no, better than that—I’m from Kansas.’ And the other thing is…wherever you go, anywhere, you say you’re from Kansas and people say, ‘Dorothy.’ There is no other state that has an association that people feel good about all over the world…There’s a whole series of Oz books in Russia where Ellie and her little dog Totoshka are as well known as Dorothy and Toto are here. It’s been a live action film in Turkey. There are animated movies in Japan. Everywhere people know Oz, and they know Kansas.”

On separating her Oz collection from family life:

“I do contain the Oz collection on the third floor. I’m not one of these collectors who if you go into my kitchen and open the cupboard doors, all the glasses or jelly glasses with Wizard of Oz on them. And I don’t have Oz artwork all over the walls outside the third floor, so I manage to kind of contain it that way. My husband does prefer that I not piggyback family vacations on Oz events that I want to attend. We kind of like to separate those…so sometimes there’s a little bit of a juggle there. My daughter doesn’t connect with my love of Oz particularly. I’m definitely the only one in my family who’s as smitten with Oz as I am.”

This story was produced for KC Currents, which airs Sundays at 5pm with a repeat Mondays at 8pm. To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KCCurrents podcast.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Susan admits that her “first love” was radio, being an avid listener since childhood. However, she spent much of her career in mental health, healthcare administration, and sports psychology (Susan holds a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Bloch School of Business at UMKC.) In the meantime, Wilson satisfied her journalistic cravings by doing public speaking, providing “expert” interviews for local television, and being a guest commentator/contributor to KPRS’s morning drive time show and the teen talk show “Generation Rap.”
Julie Denesha is the arts reporter for KCUR. Contact her at julie@kcur.org.
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