Here’s a little trivia for you. Can you finish the subject line for me? No, it’s not a trick question.
Most of you may recognize the line from any “Wizard of Oz” movie or Broadway Show. However, this show I am referring to is anything but typical. The cast consists primarily of people with disabilities.
Let me explain. I was watching television the other day and came upon an HBO Family special called “Yellow Brick Road”. It details the four month journey of the ANCHOR program to produce their very own version of the Wizard of Oz. The ANCHOR program (which stands for Answering the Needs of Citizens With Handicaps Through Organized Recreation) is a Long Island-based program for anyone with special needs. It runs year-round, offering a variety of activities in which they can participate. Some of them include sports, several camps, dances, and yes, like I said, drama.
The drama program, which is directed by Sandy Braun, was conceived by the simple fact that many of the adults were very dramatic and “loved watching themselves on films and stuff like that.” The plays are held at the Grand Avenue High School. The principal players are adults.and each bring something unique to the play. Take for example, Elizabeth O’Brien who plays the wicked witch of the West.
“Elizabeth [O’Brien] is truly her own person. She knows not just her part, but everybody’s part and how it should be acted, how it should be said.. I find myself often saying to her, “Elizabeth, that’s why they pay me the big bucks”,”
Another principle player is the David. Living independently in the group home facility, he is considered the perfect man for the role of the tin man.(That is, not because he has no heart. But the biggest of all. )
“Nothing gets this kid down. This is the kid that you would feel that life has given him a bum deal, but he really doesn’t feel that way,” said Braun.
Many outsiders may see this program as their typical after school activity, but the cast sees much more than that. For some, like Danny, who plays the scarecrow, acting means the world; on the Braun continues to say that the drama program feels like a family to some students.
“I think what drama gives him [David] is a total sense of family. A total sense of belonging,” says Braun.
Although Braun considers the cast as “kids”, she realizes the exact opposite.
“I kind of feel like a mom to them and I feel like they are my kids and that we have that,”
Citation for TV Program: “Yellow Brick Road” HBO Family channel 309 at 6:55 p.m., September 28, 2007. (Original air date: December 21, 2005 )