On Thursday, May 10 at 7 p.m. in Schaller Memorial Chapel, the curtain will rise on "Follow the Yellow Brick Road." But this is not the L. Frank Baum original. It has been updated and re-written by Buena Vista University Director of Intercultural Programs Leon Williams. This is the fourth installment of Williams' plays addressing multicultural issues.
"Follow the Yellow Brick Road" is Williams' rendition of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" and his first musical undertaking.In this play, Williams, as both writer and director, recreates the magic of Baum's masterpiece to address multicultural issues such as multi-racial identity, spirituality, language, race, homophobia, gender, and poverty. Given the diversification of Baum's work, Williams provides one perspective of the lives of Dorothy (multi-racial), The Scarecrow (African American/speech impediment), The Tin Man (homosexual), and The Lion (bilingual). Williams' inspiration of "Follow The Yellow Brick Road" comes from the ongoing social reality of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia.
For 14 years Williams has made a strong commitment to developing programs that directly and indirectly address multicultural topics.
"After several years of facilitating multicultural discussions and helping others broaden the scope of diversity, I decided to create opportunities for faculty, staff and students to address their misconceptions, biases, stereotypes and preconceived notions without being exploited or alienated," says Williams.
The 26-member cast in "Follow the Yellow Brick Road," incorporates not only BVU students, but also alumni and children of the BVU community. The students in the cast are members of Students of Diverse Programs, in particular from Men of Character, DIMES (spiritual dancers), Dance de Coeur (ballet), Women of Color, International Club and South Elementary.
BVU students are not only the main cast members in the musical, but they also take hands-on leadership roles to create the unique Oz atmosphere. According to Williams, this is an opportunity for the cast to experience some of the messages of the performance.
"This is an excellent opportunity to break down the natural cultural barriers and limitations that prevent us from developing healthy relationships," he says.
According to Williams, "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" will challenge those in the audience to bring into question their biases, misconceptions, prejudices, and stereotypes.
"It's my hope that when audiences leave they have a greater sensitivity and understanding of multicultural issues," he says. "I also hope they are inspired to take a more active role in their community."