Scarecrow's mother a wonderful wiz

The Baltimore Sun

For one weekend at our middle school, the gymnasium becomes "backstage" and the cafeteria transforms into an auditorium. Thus, we are able to enjoy two nights of terrific theater -- this year's production of Oz based on the classic The Wizard of Oz; directed by a couple of either extremely patient or highly medicated volunteers.

The weekend before the show, it was time to work on my son's costume as the Scarecrow. On Friday night, I distinctly remember saying to him during dinner: "Let's try to avoid the stress of rushing around on Sunday night, and get this project started first thing tomorrow morning."

By about 9:30 p.m. Sunday, I had finally finished sewing on the colorful patches and my husband was firing up the glue gun on the kitchen counter. My son was in the basement stitching clumps of straw together on the sewing machine so they could be applied to the sleeves and pant legs. The dog was the happiest I've ever seen him with his self-appointed job of depositing wads of damp straw in every room of our house.

Shortly after 11 p.m., we had created what we believed to be a striking, professional-quality scarecrow costume. So what if my husband had some blistering on his fingers from the hot glue oozing through the straw? So what if the sewing machine seized up and shut down on the last sleeve? So what if my son suddenly realized he had a test the next morning? The show must go on! As we trudged up to bed, the dog reminded us of our noble purpose by emitting an authentic Kansas ambience, no doubt a result of the high-fiber snacks he enjoyed on his rampant hayride through our home.

As opening night approached, there was the usual flurry of activity that happens in theater productions. In professional theaters, there might be last-minute issues about lighting or sound, or changes to the script or score. In amateur productions, we must deal with things like needing 100 extra folding chairs and picking up dinners for the cast. It is a known fact that if you are a middle school actor, you simply cannot focus if you have to go more than two hours between meals.

Parent volunteers streamed in, handling crowd control, ticket sales and program distribution. I offered to do hair. My extensive training in hairstyling consists of thumbing through magazines in assorted waiting rooms, checking out models with glossy, styled tresses and remarking, "Wow! That looks great!" So, clearly, I was called to do hair. Notice I didn't say "qualified."

When you are not qualified to do something, it is best to involve someone else immediately to share the blame. So I called upon a friend of mine who actually has glossy, styled tresses -- Yhtak Rhew, whose name has been spelled backward to protect her identity. I e-mailed her with these persuasive words:

"Hey, want to do hair with me for the upcoming production of Oz?"

She reported that she had never done hair before. Perfect!

So we arrived, two hours early, to the backstage gymnasium and set up our curling irons, brushes, ribbons, mousses and sprays.

We figured the hairstyles in Oz would run from the conventional braids on Dorothy to the uncontrolled frizz-frenzy of the Wicked Witch of the West. We were just going to have to wield our cans of spray and wing it. Of course we did not know what we were doing.

But the way I look at it, that is part of the true theater experience: Everyone pretends to be someone he is not, and everyone else believes.

Luckily, in the magical land of Oz, the backstage hairstylists didn't need experience, or talent, even.

Turns out we already had everything anyone could wish for: brains, heart and most of all -- courage.

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