Special Guests for 2015 Oz-Stravaganza!
Celebrating 20 years of “WICKED”
Gregory Maguire is the author of Wicked, the novel that inspired the blockbuster musical play now in its twelfth year on Broadway. Wicked and its three sequels, called collectively The Wicked Years, have sold seven million copies. His latest fantasy, Egg & Spoon, a crossover novel for teens and adults, features Baba Yaga, the famous witch of Russian folklore. Widely admired with multiple starred reviews, Egg & Spoon has been optioned by Universal Studios. Maguire has appeared on Oprah; he’s been featured as the subject of a New York Times Magazine profile; and he has performed original work for National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” He interrupts writing with exercises in children’s literature advocacy. He lives with his husband and their three children in New England and France.
John Fricke is the world's preeminent Wizard of Oz and Judy Garland historian and author; a two-time Emmy Award-winning producer/writer; a Grammy Award nominee; and annual host/emcee of twenty-three of the last twenty-six Chittenango OZ-Stravaganza! events. His latest book, The Wonderful World of Oz, traces the history of the Baum-founded phenomenon from 1900 to 2013 in text and over 300 color illustrations. John can regularly be seen on the Turner Classic Movies channel in their "Word of Mouth" preview segments. Three years ago, he cohosted (with Robert Osborne) Judy Garland's 90th birthday celebration on that network, and last year, he was a special guest presenter at their Los Angeles film festival. In 2013 and 2014, he served as Warner Bros.' media spokesman for 75th anniversary of Judy's Wizard of Oz motion picture, and he was Warner Bros.' emcee at the 3D/IMAX re-premiere of the film at Hollywood's TCL Chinese Theatre. John is the only Oz historian featured in the new "making of" Oz documentary on the current Warner Home Video DVD remastering of the film and delivers the commentary track accompanying the movie itself. He offers similar tracks on the DVDs of Meet Me in St. Louis, Easter Parade, For Me and My Gal, The Pirate, Babes in Arms, and Girl Crazy. John has spoken about Oz and Garland everywhere from "The Today Show" (four appearances), to CNN, National Public Radio, The Museum of Modern Art, The Film Society of Lincoln Center, and The Paley Center -- all in New York -- as well as at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles and the Deauville Film Festival in France. Currently, he is working with Aaron Harburg and Ryan Jay on The Sound of Oz documentary about songwriters E. Y. "Yip" Harburg and Harold Arlen, as well as serving as historian and creative consultant for the new Judy Garland stage musical, Chasing Rainbows. Last June, he co-wrote the celebration of classic pop singer Margaret Whiting and then sang during that show at Carnegie Hall in New York; he is presently preparing the Whiting cabaret concert for tour. In addition to OZ-Stravaganza!, he will host all the other major 2015 Oz festivals in Grand Rapids, MN (June 10-13), Wamego, KS (Sept. 25-27), and the new Midwest event in suburban Chicago (Sept. 11-13).
Myrna Swensen, “Munchkin by Marriage”
As a teenager, Myrna Clifton was scheduled to appear in MGM’s Wizard of Oz, as were her parents. The girl’s emergency appendectomy sidelined the family trip to Culver City, California; by the time they were ready to travel, the film was too far into production for them to be cast. Several years later, however (and still in her native Texas), Myrna caught the appreciative eye–and heart–of movie “Munchkin soldier,” Clarence Swensen. Their subsequent love affair resulted in a 63-year marriage, three daughters, grandchildren, and greatgrandchildren. Since Clarence’s passing in 2009, Myrna has continued to appear at nationwide Oz festivals, where the Swensens were much-admired, much-loved regulars for two decades.
Christianna Rickard is an author and popular public speaker. She was particularly close to her uncle, the great Ray Bolger, who was a Broadway star best known for his role of the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz.”
After graduating from the University of Houston with a major in Humanities, Ms. Rickard decided to focus on all things spiritual. She is well versed in the philosophies and practices of numerous traditions. After attaining her Spiritual Director’s license from the Catholic church, she worked for several years at the Houston Jung Center for Psychotherapy and the Expressive Arts. Ms. Rickard’s eclectic education gives her tools for dealing gracefully with challenges of many kinds. She is the author and editor of assorted articles and has written a memoir for every decade of her life. As she says, “When life is chaotic or difficult, writing has always been a source of healing and growth for me.”
Most recently, Ms. Rickard has written a book about her uncle titled Remem-bering Oz: My Journey with the Scarecrow. World-renowned author and scholar Jean Houston says this of the book, “Remembering Oz is not only a warm remembrance and tribute to the author’s uncle—it is also a testament to the powers of Oz that lie within us all. Rickard offers spiritual gifts of extraordinary richness and psychological depth. This is a book to treasure and return to again and again.”
Ms. Rickard is a proud cancer survivor with a complex, polished set of skills for managing both illness and the medical system. As she says, “I have seen the tombstone with my name on it – and now I know the importance of leading a courageous life.” This is a woman who practices what she preaches.