‘Beyond the Yellow Brick Road’ – Barter Theatre opens ‘The Wizard of Oz’

Published 5:04 pm Wednesday, June 5, 2024

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Sometimes our journey in life leads us past places we intended to experience along the way. Other times, it unexpectedly leads us down winding dirt trails and golden inlaid paths toward a destination we couldn’t have imagined. Both paths converge this summer at Barter Theatre in Abingdon. 

The Appalachian Trail (AT) and the Yellow Brick Road in The Wizard of Oz both serve as iconic pathways that represent journeys of self-discovery and quests for something deeply significant and potentially life changing. While the Appalachian Trail is a real and palpable physical hiking trail spanning over 2,190 miles up the eastern side of the United States, the Yellow Brick Road is a fictional path created within the recesses of the mind in L. Frank Baum’s classic story. Despite these differences, both paths share thematic similarities in the way they guide travelers on transformative journeys. 

Both journeys lead travelers on a search for something bigger than themselves. Many who hike the AT do so seeking personal growth, healing, or a deeper connection with nature – and themselves. The rigorous and lengthy journey provides time for introspection. Hikers often set out to challenge themselves physically and mentally, looking for clarity, purpose, or a sense of accomplishment. 

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Along the trail, hikers form a community with one another, sharing experiences and supporting each other. This camaraderie often becomes a significant part of their journey, providing a sense of belonging and shared goal. Just the same, Dorothy and her companions follow the Yellow Brick Road in search of the fulfillment of their most longed for desires. Dorothy seeks a way back home to Kansas, the Scarecrow wants a brain, the Tin Man hopes for a heart, and the Cowardly Lion longs for courage. Their journey becomes a mission for these intangible yet profoundly important qualities. 

Ultimately, each character reaches self-realization. As they travel, all discover that the qualities they so desperately seek are already within them. The journey along the Yellow Brick Road is as much about recognizing their inner strengths as it is about reaching the physical destination of the Emerald City. 

Completing the AT is often described as a transformative experience. When hikers return home, they find themselves changed by the journey, carrying with them new insights, resilience, and a deepened sense of self. This homecoming is not just a return to a physical place but a renewed state of mind and reintroduction to the self, cultivated and enhanced by the experiences along the trail. Reaching the end of any obstacle lined path symbolizes the culmination of a long and arduous journey, often bringing a profound sense of achievement and closure. This sense of fulfillment can redefine one’s sense of home, acceptance, and belonging. 

This sense of belonging reaches across the pages into the land of Oz, where Dorothy returns home feeling a deeper sense of knowledge and awareness. For Dorothy, the Yellow Brick Road ultimately leads back home to Kansas. Her journey in Oz helps her realize the value of home and the people she loves. The phrase “There’s no place like home” encapsulates the lesson that, despite the wonders and spectacle of Oz, true happiness and security lie in her familiar, humble home. Additionally, the other characters also find that their journey has led them back to their own sense of self. The Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion each realize that they already possessed the qualities they sought all along, and their journey down the Yellow Brick Road helped them uncover these inner truths. 

“Whether they travel on the Appalachian Trail or the Yellow Brick Road, the characters in our plays are discovering who they are and what home means to them,” said Artistic Producing Director Katy Brown. “Journeys teach you about who you are and where you come from, no matter if you travel on the AT or the Yellow Brick Road.” 

Both the Appalachian Trail and the Yellow Brick Road symbolize more than just physical paths; they represent journeys of transformation and self-discovery. Travelers on these paths seek something significant – be it personal growth or fulfillment of desires. Ultimately, both paths lead back home, but with a renewed understanding and appreciation of what “home” truly means. Whether through the natural beauty and challenges of the AT or the magical adventures of Oz, these journeys remind us that the search for something often brings us back to ourselves, and there’s no place like home. 

Come discover home for yourself along the Yellow Brick Road! The Wizard of Oz is now playing at Barter Theatre’s Gilliam Stage through August 18. For ticket information, please visit https://bartertheatre.com/big-shows/the-wizard-of-oz/ or call the Box Office at (276) 628-3991.