Before we go off for Winter Vacation, I wanted to wish the entire Akiva community a restful break and a happy Chanukah. We are wrapping up this secular year with energy and inspiration courtesy of the Akiva Players amazing production of the original musical, Cyber Oz. I want to thank all of the students, parents, and volunteers from Akiva present and past who gave so generously of themselves and their talents so that we could enjoy this fabulous production. Below is my message from the Playbill, a reflection of the Wizard of Oz in its various iterations, and the unique Akiva twist taken in our own rendition.
Have a wonderful vacation, we look forward to seeing you back at Akiva in January because, we know, there’s no place like home.
There have been over 50 adaptions of The Wizard of Oz for stage and screen. L. Frank Baum’s novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was first published in 1900, and almost immediately inspired countless writers, producers, and directors to adopt and adapt its contents. Like many others of my generation, I fell in love with the story of Dorothy and her friends from watching the iconic 1939 film starring Judy Garland, which was screened on television annually beginning in 1959. I also remember as a child sitting in front of the T.V. on Sunday mornings watching reruns of the 1961 television series Tales of the Wizard of Oz, and recall the release of The Wiz in 1978, the dramatic reimagining of Oz with Diana Ross and an all African-American cast. Today, almost 120 years after the book’s release, the impetus to recreate this classic has not slowed; from Disney’s 2013, Oz: The Great and Powerful to the Canadian Steam Engines of Oz, released just last year.
What is it about this tale that continues to inspire both reverence for the original and an urge to update for each generation? The source of its power seems as elusive as the eponymous Wizard himself.
Like its countless predecessors, the Akiva Players’ Cyber Oz: There’s No Place Like the Internet still features Auntie Em and Toto, while modernizing the story to respond to a pressing social issue of our day—the complicated relationship we have with world of technology and the Internet. Every year, the message of the Akiva Play is an iteration of the Mission of the Akiva School, and this year’s message could not be more timely: Cyber Oz teaches that there is nothing in life more important than making real human connections. At Akiva, while we embrace the wonderful and magical power of technology, we know that it must always be subservient to the authentic relationships that can only be nurtured without the intercession of a screen. This, too, is part of the message of Baum’s Oz: once the seductive illusion of the Wizard’s curtain is shattered, Dorothy and her companions discover that real power comes from genuine friendship, and a belief in oneself.
Perhaps, then, the secret of Oz’s power and durability is this: The primacy of kindness, friendship, and belief in ourselves is timeless, yet in each generation we need to reaffirm these principles in language that speaks to our own experience.
I would like to extend my personal gratitude to the Akiva Players for bringing the message of Oz to our school this year. A special thank-you to the writers, directors, producers, volunteers and professionals whose boundless time, talent, and dedication make the Akiva Play an unparalleled success each year.