Wednesday, August 7, 2013

From the Archives: Northeast Middle School Presents ‘The Wizard of Oz’

I was an extremely shy kid. 

People who know or work with me now will have a hard time believing that. However, before March 13, 1998, I was so shy and timid that I didn’t play Little League, had to be coaxed and coached into making friends, and was generally afraid of my own shadow.

When my 8th grade teacher Mrs. Carroll—who had assigned my autobiography project the year before—announced that the school was putting on a production of The Wizard of Oz, there was not one fiber of my soul that wanted to audition for a role. However, in a rare display of ambition and guts, I asked if I could be the backstage journalist that documented everything leading up to and including the performance. Mrs. Carroll agreed, and I was unaware that she did so just to get me into the audition room.

“You’re trying out for the Cowardly Lion,” she said when I walked into the band room on the day of tryouts. “Go.”

She caught me at just the right time and in just the right way. I didn’t have time to be scared, and I certainly didn’t have time to back out. I was in a scene and I did what I had excelled at my entire childhood. I pretended to be someone else so convincingly that Daniel Ford ceased to exist. For however many minutes that scene went on for, I was the Cowardly Lion.

Mrs. Carroll had me audition for the Tin Man too, but my destiny was already determined. No one was going to be the Lion but me. 
The cast list. I pretty much had a nervous breakdown after seeing this the first time. I got chills looking at it all these years later. This is the piece of paper that changed my life.
I was shaking right before my first scene of the first performance. I don’t know how my costume didn’t fall right off my body. Maybe it was the pillow tied around my midsection that kept everything together. I listened for the line from Dorothy that signaled I had to leap out and roar. I wished for that moment never to come.

A funny thing happened when it did. A switch went off inside me and I instantly got into a zone. All my lines, all the music, all the dance moves came to my mind one after the other and I don’t remember taking a breath until it was all over.

Me as the Cowardly Lion
I remember I walked out for the curtain call and the whole auditorium went bonkers. This isn’t me over exaggerating for effect. If I had heard a crowd that loud up to that point, I would have run in the other direction. But Daniel Ford the Ham was born that night and played up to the standing ovation by flexing my Cowardly Lion muscles and strutting across the stage.

We're singing "We're Off to See the Wizard" in this picture. I nearly tripped over my tail every time we ran this scene, but never went down.
 I’ve had people recently come up to me in Bristol and say they remember when I brought the house down during The Wizard of Oz. No matter how old I get, it’s going to define me in my hometown and I couldn’t be prouder of that. My 8th grade math teacher called me “The Best Kept Secret in Bristol,” and that gave me the drive, incentive, and more importantly, the confidence to leave home and conquer in New York City. I actually did produce a piece of journalism—or what I considered journalism to be at that age—after all of us lost the immediate glow of being talks of the town. It brought back a lot of memories for me and I hope it brings back similar fond memories for my co-stars.

I signed everyone’s program with my mother’s well-worn inspirational phrase, “Reach for the Stars.” Here’s hoping the former inhabitants of Oz have them firmly in their grasps.

The full cast and crew.
The 'Wizard of Oz' Retrospective

The story of how Dorothy finds Oz and learns there is no place like home has been entertaining people of all ages since the movie’s release in 1939. Fifty-nine years later, the student’s of Northeast Middle School presented The Wizard of Oz for the public at Bristol Eastern High School.

The performing of The Wizard of Oz was a labor of love and persistence to succeed. To steal a line from Tom Hanks in Apollo 13, “Even the guy sweeping the floor was proud to be apart of it.” The actors and actresses should be congratulated for their hard work to bring The Wizard of Oz on stage for the people of Bristol, Conn. As for our talented director Mrs. Carroll, words cannot express what a great job she did transforming the students of Northeast into the characters we’ve all grown to love. Let us not forget Ms. Luke, Mr. Carlson, and the tech crew, who we could not have put on the show without.

As for me, going from a backstage reporter to one of the leads was something I could not do without any of the people I have just mentioned. Although the yellow brick road that the Northeast students have been following for four months has come to an end, we wish the future students who might travel on it the best of luck.

Other ‘Wizard of Oz’ Memorabilia

A letter from the Bristol Board of Education thanking the cast individually for a preview performance. I need more people need to address me as “master.” 

Ticket stubs. The green one would have gotten you into the March 13 performance and the yellow is for the March 14 show. $4 for a night of homegrown entertainment? That’s a steal. 

Front and inside covers of the program for The Wizard of Oz. Here is my actor profile in said program: “Daniel is in 8th grade and is an honor student. He is in a number of music groups including the Express Singers and the NEMS band. Daniel plans to write and act in his own musicals and plays. Dan would like to thank Mrs. Carroll for her support and guidance.” 

A card from my favorite social studies teacher Mr. Simpson. He’s a big reason why I became a history nerd. I came back to visit him during my sophomore year and he had just given his annual quiz on the Constitution. He fired four or five questions my way and I nailed them all. #nerdtriumph 


A letter from Mrs. Carroll that I will always carry with me as a reminder that risks are worth taking and that hard work and having a positive attitude pays off.


  1. I discovered your blog last night . Wow your a really great writer. I recently graduated from nems, many of the teachers you talked about are not there any more but mrs.carroll is. She is now the libraryin. She won bristol teacher of the year 2013.

    1. Hello there! Thanks for the kind words and the info. Congrats on graduating and good luck in high school!

  2. Very scary. Luckily you weren't hurt! We had awful storms also that Wizard101!

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