UW profs narrate PBS doc on 'Wizard of Oz' author Baum's life and characters - Casper, WY Oil City News
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UW profs narrate PBS doc on ‘Wizard of Oz’ author Baum’s life and characters

L. Frank Baum reading on the porch of The Sign of the Goose, Macatawa Park, Michigan (Wikimedia Commons)

CASPER, Wyo — Two University of Wyoming English instructors provide narration for “American Oz,” a documentary about author L. Frank Baum’s life, debuting on PBS Monday UW announced this week.

 Baum is best known as the author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” published in 1900. 

UW’s Susan Aronstein and Kent Drummond, along with UW professor emeritus Terri Rittenburg, wrote “The Road to Wicked: The Marketing and Consumption of Oz from L. Frank Baum to Broadway,” published in 2018.

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“Most people don’t realize this, but Baum was a savvy marketer and brand manager,” Drummond said. “He worked in a variety of professions before he wrote the Oz books, including his family’s motor oil firm, a fancy poultry company and a high-end gift boutique in Aberdeen, S.D….

“…. All of these experiences enabled him to shrewdly market his Oz books when the time came to do so,” Drummond said.

Aronstein said the first several chapters of their book deal directly with Baum’s life. “When the opportunity came to convey our research in a new medium, we jumped at the chance,” he said.

Aronstein and Drummond provide narration for the documentary and hope it will lead to a whole new audience for Baum, his works and books about his works, UW said.

Though many believe Baum most identified himself with the Wizard, Aronstein and Drummond contend the author saw a little bit of himself in all of his characters.

“Baum valued independence, innovation, empathy, teamwork and resourcefulness, and these qualities come through in his most enduring characters,” Aronstein said.

“American Oz,” the latest entry in the “American Experience” series, will air on PBS from 8-10 p.m. MDT Monday, April 19, UW said.

For an extended trailer of the upcoming program, with narration by Aronstein and Drummond, go to www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/american-oz-extended-trailer/.

More information is available in the UW release here.