Monday, July 03, 2017

OzCon International - Day 3

Here it is, the final installment of the convention reports I wrote at OzCon International. This one was sent out moments before my husband and I left the hotel.


Sunday morning, as usual at any convention, came far too early. Oz fans peeked out of their rooms like chipmunks watching for late owls, then zombied their way to breakfast, car-packing and check-out. The movement in the hotel of Oz fans was considerably slower than previous days, as the programming didn't start on Sunday until 10 a.m., giving everyone an extra hour for the last morning of the con.

At 10 a.m., panelists Eric Gjovaag, Gina Wickwar, Lee Speth and John Bell started an open and energetic discussion of the later L. Frank Baum books, with an emphasis on The Lost Princess of Oz. The audience was engaged and there was a lot of feedback on favorite parts of the books along with magic words and manuscripts. Opinions flew like arrows and every one seemed to hit a pertinent point. Serious discussion about which of Baum's four final books was the best triggered a lot of thoughtful commentary on specific scenes and memories from people of when they first read each book.

After an hour of scintillating conversation, the convention had a short break before the annual business meeting. A number of people left to head home or check out of the hotel. Jay Davis, Lee Speth and Colin Ayres started the business meeting with a discussion of next year's venue, the Kellogg West Conference Center and Hotel at Cal Poly in Pomona, California. The convention will be held Aug 10-12, 2018.

Discussion included a request for the return of the treasure hunt, a warning that Pomona will be hot in August, and the comment that Disneyland is fairly near to the location. People also were concerned about how publicity and information will be spread on next year's convention. Publicity was also discussed heavily. As the people who were going on the cruise prepared to depart, Jay showed off the promotional image for next year's convention on his t-shirt.

The folks going on the cruise gathered in the lobby and rafted off together to the event, while those left behind got lunch and gathered in the lobby to discuss a variety of topics, with a lot of planning and thoughts on next year's event.

After a pleasant hour and change, John Fricke started the next program: a retrospective about the history of the radio show the group saw last night. Also on the panel were Travis Ashmore and Jean Paul Archambeault, who directed and performed the radio play. Fricke explained that NBC has all the scripts and even the negotiations with the book publishers in its archives. He was unable to make copies of any of the material, but was able to go back several times and take notes, writing two articles about it for the Baum Bugle. Later, Chris Sterling wanted to perform some of the plays, and got permission to print the scripts from NBC. These same scripts were the ones performed at this year's convention, many years after their first convention debut.

Fricke also talked about where the play was heard - and noted that it was never aired on the west coast. Ashmore talked about the work involved in putting on the show, how he hunted down the actors and auditioned people via phone, "I didn't need to see them, just hear them," he said. Timing and cadence were crucial, and he found people he thought were the best for each character. The most challenging part was finding the "On the Air" lights and vintage microphones, along with the items used to create sound effects by the foley artists.

He said the assistance of David Ian and Sam A. Mowry was vital in getting the sound effects put together, including the loan of a number of materials from Mowry. Eric Shanower also assisted by helping Ashmore make contacts with Portland groups who could help out.

Fricke asked Archambeault about his opinions, being an Oz outsider who was unaware of the radio play or even most of the Oz books before getting involved in this. He'd done some work on radio and doing voices for Anime, so he jumped at the chance to try something new. He had seen the MGM Movie and Return to Oz, and said the event was a bit of a culture shock, but he enjoyed the passion of the attendees and plans on starting to read the Oz books.

Archambeault played Jim the Horse, the Braided Man and the Dragon, and during the play when he switched from Jim to the Braided Man he removed his hat to reveal braided hair with ribbons in it, which got a big response from the audience. He said the idea to do the "costume" that way came early in the process. Ashmore said he wanted the actors to look like they might have come into a studio dressed that way in 1934, while still reflecting their character's nature. If you see a photo of the staff as they were performing, there is a good chance you can identify each of the characters by how they are dressed.

A short break allowed many of the handful of remaining attendees to wander off, leaving a sparsely populated room for the 2 p.m. panel about next year's convention. With maybe a dozen people in the room, Jay Davis started discussing plans for guests/events for next year and potential fundraising to help secure those guests/events. Jay also discussed the places of Oz history that are close to Pomona that Oz fans may want to visit, and whether or not a group bus tour might be a fun way to accomplish the visits.

The classic discussion on whether or not meals should be included in the cost of registration was again brought up. Also discussed was whether or not the banquet should be included as part of the standard cost.

The convention ended as Lee Speth announced he is no longer the Chair, and handed the figurative baton to Jay Davis. Jay told everyone that he hopes to include upcoming convention information on his podcast, if people want to subscribe to the Royal Podcast of Oz.

Reminder: OzCon 2018 will be held Aug 10-12, 2018, at Kellogg West Conference Center and Hotel in Pomona, California. The theme is Tin Woodman of Oz, which will be celebrating the centennial of its publication next year.

Some final notes:
* Another group in the hotel over the weekend were the Jehovah's Witnesses, but as they were on the other side of the hotel we hardly ran into them at all.
* The banquet room was just across the main lobby from the OzCon area - but the main lobby was cut off thanks to the construction. People had to detour all the way around the construction to get to the banquet.
* This year's convention was also the 53rd Winkie Convention.
* The heavy construction that plagued the group with noise on Friday was not happening on Saturday and Sunday - although workers were still laying carpet in some areas.
* After listening to the radio play, some people were wondering exactly how to make Jell-O flakes.
* These newsletters have been posted online at ye ol' editor's blog under the tag OzCon2017, so you can direct other people to them if you want folks to read them.

Quote of the Day:

"Here there be Skeezers" - during a discussion of maps of Oz

The reviews are in (responses to these reports):

"Have a great time!!!" -Diana
"Thank you for these summaries - the next best thing to being actually able to attend!" - Gili
"that was a fun read, Laura! thanks!" -Glenn
"Pomona! That's great news. I will be there with my family." - Lorin
"Making plans for Pomona convention." - Micki