by LISA CAPOBIANCO
Things aren’t always what they seem to be. People aren’t always what they seem to be either. That is a lesson I have continuously learned as the years pass.
Last week, that lesson became even more apparent to me when I had the pleasure of seeing “Wicked” the musical at the Bushnell. Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, “Wicked” centers on the untold story of Wizard of Oz characters Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) and Galinda (aka: Glinda— the good witch).
Little do we know about the past of these characters in “The Wizard of Oz,” which portrays Elphaba as an evildoer, and Glinda as a pure figure with magical powers to bring good among the little people of Munchkin Land. But “Wicked” shows us the never before-heard story of how the characters Glinda and Elphaba became who they are.
Daughter of the governor of Oz, Elphaba was born with green skin and jet black hair, unlike her family. From the moment she came into the world, the people in town and even her own family ostracized her and assumed she had some kind of “evil” inside just because she looked different. When attending school, Elphaba’s peers were afraid at the sight of her, and ran the other direction.
How many times in our lives have we judged another person and looked the other way just because they looked different or sounded different? Elphaba’s story is one that I think resonates with many individuals.
While watching the story unfold from my seat, seeing Elphaba’s struggle to fit in reminded me of several experiences of my own, especially in college.
When Elphaba enters the university called Shiz, she winds up becoming roommates with Galinda (Glinda), a blonde, shallow, and narcissistic girl who is popular among her peers. Upon finding out they are roommates, both Galinda and Elphaba write to their parents about the situation, hoping they can find a way out of it by switching to different rooms. As Galinda (and Elphaba) writes the letter to her parents, she sings…”my roommate is unusually and exceedingly peculiar and altogether quite impossible to describe.”
Although not exactly the same, that scene reminds me vividly of a situation I had sophomore year of college at Quinnipiac University. Before the first semester began, three of my roommates (from freshman year) and I discovered we were going to be randomly assigned to a room with a girl named. Let’s call her Emily, for this purpose.
Emily had a falling out with several other girls she lived with toward the end of that first year. The original plan was to live with all of those girls before the falling out happened. After that, Emily was stuck living with us.
At first my original roommates and I were skeptical after hearing about the fight that happened. According to the other girls, she was portrayed as “trouble,” and they made it seem as though she started the fight. The ironic part is that when that same group of girls told Emily they decided to live in a different room, they told her they did not want to live with my roommates and I because we were too “quiet” and “weird” (just because we were studious and stayed in our rooms most of the time).
Unfortunately my roommates and I kind of isolated ourselves from Emily during the first semester because we were “scared” that we could never get along with her.
But as time went on in our sophomore year and I got to know Emily, she actually turned out to be a fun, entertaining, and nurturing suitemate. Although she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, Emily turned out to be one of my best friends. We ended up living together for the remaining two years of college, and we still keep in touch today.
Watching the relationship between Elphaba and Galinda evolve reminds me of that situation because ultimately they become good friends. A shift in their relationship changes when Elphaba makes an appearance at a dance, and starts doing her own “unique” moves that stand out from the crowd. Although everyone stares in dead silence, Galinda approaches Elphaba and makes her feel included by teaching her some of her own moves, and they all end up dancing together. Later that night, Galinda starts talking to Elphaba like a friend and even gives her a mini “makeover.”
I recall how a major shift in my relationship with Emily changed after we all attended a school concert together. Getting all dolled up together, the night brought nothing but laughs and fun. Emily was definitely not what she appeared to be based on the labels her old roommates placed on her. Likewise, we, as her roommates, were not exactly what we seemed to be either, which she actually admitted to us later in the semester.
When “Wicked” ended, the “Wicked Witch of the West” (Elphaba) never turned out to be the person who I really expected, for I learned that she turned out to be a woman who fights for what she believes in even though society disagrees. Little did I know that Elphaba was actually an activist for animals in the story, and defended her history professor Doctor Dillamond (a goat) when it was decided that animals were forbidden to teach at Shiz.
Although Elphaba looked “wicked” from the outside, she was in fact a beautiful person on the inside who upheld her beliefs even if the rest of the world considers it “evil.”
Things aren’t always what they appear to be, and people aren’t either. That is something to consider the next time we are quick to judge another individual based on his or her appearance, race or ethnic background, religion, etc.
Lisa Capobianco is a reporter at The Observer.