Small Sacrifices: A Recollection of the Kansas Collection, Ch. 9: The Storm

The following is a full-spoiler walkthrough for The Storm, the ninth installment in The Speakeasy Society’s Kansas Collection series. These chapters are not expected to remount soon, so feel free to read on if you’ve missed this performance, and read our review here. 

 

 

Recruits! It’s time.

Jo Files…General…Jo Files is marching down a street in Chinatown toward us with purpose. He leads us along quickly, deriding us for not dressing appropriately for Her Majesty, and for our general lack of discipline before we finally arrive at a metal door.

He instructs us to enter and line up with our backs against the far wall.

Do you know why you’re here? He asks. You’re here for a private audience with The Queen.

He has us sign a waiver of liability, instructing us to write the date next to our names: May 15th.

I’m confused. May 15th? That’s the date that Glinda and Phil thought it was when we saw them last week; could time have become so distressed between Oz and Kansas that it’s somehow still May 15th?

It’s March 15th, I tell General Files.

You’re wrong and you’re experiencing time dilation. It’s May 15th and we know this to be true because this is the day The Lion is supposed to meet with us…but apparently she is following a lead on The Wizard, and where Glinda and Phil are hiding.

So it is somehow the same day here at The Storm as it was during The Slippers. This means that when I last saw the Lion, when she slipped away from Phil, Oscar and Glinda with the Silver Slippers, she must have been headed right here, and we’ve arrived just before her.

Files reminds us that he’s a General now; he’s been rewarded for his service and sacrifice to the crown. He demands that we address him as such. Yes, General, we murmur in response. 

We’re fortunate to be meeting with The Queen in such an intimate fashion, he continues, but they’ve learned from the security flaws that led to the assassination of The Scarecrow King at the wedding. We mustn’t speak unless spoken to, we mustn’t touch anything, and we must obey his commands at all cost.

Yes, General.

He mentions that certain powerful objects have been surfacing in recent days, recounting a tragic story where an entire town and river in Munchkin were turned to stone. Clearly, these objects can be used as weapons in the wrong hands, he says, noting that reports have shown that the Munchkin tragedy was a terrorist attack that originated in Kansas. I exchange a dubious glance with my fellow guests at this.

He begins to mention another event, something about the Tinman going rogue on assignment in Winky, but stops himself, smirking. A general shouldn’t be fraternizing with his subordinates, you almost got me.

He pulls out a comical, steampunk-looking device and explains he’ll be using it to detect traces of magic on us — the more he knows, the safer The Queen is in our presence, we presume. He scans us, making a clever dweep dweeeeb dwee sound as he does, remarking at our lack of magic or jeering at the “ridiculous” items we have in our pockets. It’s a rare moment of levity in what’s become an increasingly dire set of circumstances in recent months.

He remarks that he’s aware some of us may be distraught, having witnessed the passing of Dorothy Gale. He reassures us that her body was returned to Oz and buried alongside her dear friend, The Scarecrow King. I cringe at the thought. He seems to imply that Tik and Jack were responsible for Dorothy’s murder, not Tinman, and I realize with horror and a complete lack of surprise that Tinman has been welcomed back into the Ozian Court. 

Files asks if we saw the video of Jinjur’s execution, and I remember watching Glinda’s face as we saw it together. It wasn’t easy for me to do, I pulled the trigger. She knew the risks, she was a soldier and a traitor. He recalls the Kansas saying “live by the sword, die by the sword,” and compares it to one from Oz: “Regret is the past making decisions for the future.” He doesn’t regret anything he’s done. In fact, he’s glad to be moving on and back in Kansas, where he no longer has dreams of Jinjur visiting him. She’s been saying the same thing for weeks, he starts to explain, but then catches himself again.

His voice grows quiet, just for a moment. You think I’m a bad person, he says, but dismisses the thought. Ozma is the leader that Oz needs. He motions to the stairwell nearby. It’s time.

He leads us all downstairs where a visibly pregnant Queen Ozma reclines on a couch. We each step forward and bow to her, giving her our name, and a gift. Some have brought jewels, photos in frames, and the like. I, unprepared and in a panic, hand her a small bottle of lotion from my purse, which she spreads on her hands jovially. She takes gifts from each of us, a sickeningly sweet smile on her face.

 

The Storm the kansas collection the speakeasy society immersive theater queen ozma jo files

Genevieve Gearhart as Queen Ozma

 

We sit in chairs around her and she addresses us, noting that, yes, the past few months have been stressful for us all. Files interjects, asking to take his leave back upstairs. He seems somewhat uncomfortable around his Queen. Ozma insists he stay, patting the couch next to her for him to sit. The shift in Files’ behavior since arriving in Ozma’s presence is notable: He seems awkward, almost shy, despite Ozma saying how she’s come to rely heavily on him since her Coronation. Not once has he shown hesitation, doubt, or regret, she beams. Files smiles tightly. I serve Her Majesty; her life before mine, he says. She smiles, thanking him on behalf of herself and her unborn child, inspiring us to stiffly clap for her in congratulations.

She hops up and suggests a celebratory cocktail, non-alcoholic of course, and starts pouring glasses for Files to pass out to us. It’s a sampling of some special bottles from my private collection, she notes.

Once we all have a glass, she hands one to Files, and toasts us. Oz Forever. We drink, save Files, who seems bound by honor not to celebrate whilst on duty.

She thanks us all for our part in bringing forward a new era for Oz and Kansas before approaching us, asking to see one woman’s hands, and asking a man to open his eyes a bit wider. She makes a hmph, sound. Very well. She opens her hands. You can all have your gifts back, she laughs. Just a little test to see what you’d sacrifice to me if given the chance.

She uses the return of our gifts as a demonstration of how merciful she is. She knows that slander and lies have been spread about her involvement in events since her Coronation. She wants to clear up any doubts.

I was responsible for the assassination of The Scarecrow, she declares. No, she didn’t pull the trigger, but she knew his assassination was a distinct possibility. Files interrupts her, saying she shouldn’t blame herself for his lack of security for Scarecrow at the wedding, but she waves him off. She then echoes something I recall Oscar Diggs and Phil Daring saying not so long ago: We’ve all destroyed the world a little. She nods at Files, sipping her drink. You were ignorant. I was not.

She continues, I was responsible for the torture, confession, and execution of Jinjur. Ozma released the footage and ensured that it would get to Glinda at exactly the right time to maximize the Witch’s shame and anger. 

Files shifts uncomfortably, continually trying to interrupt Ozma to stop her from saying any more, but she ignores him and speaks over his protestations.

I am responsible for the murder of Dorothea Gale.

A small hush follows this admission.

She wasn’t kidnapped, I put her in Kansas, knowing she’d end up dead one way or another.

At this, Files says nothing. Ozma notes his silence and reveals that Files was the one who tied Dorothy up in the little room we found her in before she died. She notes that this act has weighed a bit harder on Files than executing Jinjur, as Dorothy was comparatively innocent. Why did you do it, Jo? Ozma asks. She already knows the answer, she just wants him to say it, and he does, quieter this time than before.

I serve Her Majesty; her life before mine. His voice flickers like a low flame.

Ozma regards the rest of us and what she says next echoes the words of her brother, Phil Daring, as he discovered his own magic, except they come from a truly opposite place.

The bonds that you have that connect you to others, your friendships, they do not make you strong, they make you weak, vulnerable. 

She starts to list those who’ve been destroyed by their connection to others: Tik and Jack were slavishly devoted to Dorothy and failed her. Dorothy allowed herself to be captured by Scarecrow because she wanted to save her sister, and now they’re both dead. Glinda’s entire kingdom turned to ashes all because of her blind love for Jinjur.

She reminds us of the Oath to Oz. No place else but here. No when else but now. What was the third?

Files’ voice is a whisper now: No one else but I.

That’s right, Ozma says, no one else but you.

Files tries to leave again, saying he hears something upstairs, while Ozma once again says that our connection to others makes us weak before raising her voice.

Isn’t that right, Files? Why didn’t you tell me about the existence of the Gun Tree? She asks.

Because it was forbidden and the punishment would have been severe, he says.

Very severe, she says, and were you concerned for yourself?

No, Your Majesty. I was concerned for my family.

And where are they now?

Dead.

And your farm?

Gone.

And what do you have now Files?

For once, he sounds truly insincere. My service to Her Majesty, he concludes.

She steps closer to him, asking why he thought she wouldn’t have protected his family if he’d just told her about the Tree. And wouldn’t the Scarecrow still be alive if he had? It was your love for them that caused their death, she says, that’s all there is to it.

Yes, Your Majesty, he exhales. It’s the first time I’ve truly felt pity for him since we began this journey. He has nothing left but what passes as loyalty in Oz.

Ozma gestures at Files’ full glass, noting that he hasn’t touched it. He defers, saying it’s inappropriate for him to  drink on duty. Oh, now he wants to follow the rules, she sneers.

She scoffs and moves on, mentioning the reports of the “Good Ozma” she’s been hearing about. It doesn’t matter what you label her, she says. She, the Queen Ozma, is the one who fulfilled the Prophecy, she is the Lost Princess, she is the real Ozma, and the rest of her—Phil Daring and whatever “Good” version of Ozma he claims is within him—is useless, she needs to be rid of it.

Files seems confused by that last part. She reminds him that the “bad” parts of him got him to the esteemed position he finds himself in today. The bad parts of Tinman, now freed after Dorothy’s death and his obsessive love for her along with it, now allow him to serve her the way she’s always needed him to. She tells of an incident in Winky, where, at her command, Tinman murdered the men, women, and children who refused to swear allegiance to her, never saying a word. I look over at Files again — this was the incident he began to mention before we came downstairs — but he’s impassive, dumbstruck. 

She continues: They cried out to Ozma to save them as they died and I did. Death is a mercy. Hope is cruel. There is no good and bad, there only is what is, reality and survival, and anyone who denies it deserves to be punished, so if Phil —

As she says her brother’s name, she doubles over in pain, but waves  Files off as he rushes to her. My brother is trying to kill me, I’m sure of it, she says. If only she knew that Phil’s been dreaming of saving what’s left of his sister, Phoebe, this whole time, I think. If only she cared.

She says she’s trying to summon the largest portal ever created between Oz and Kansas, with the intent of marching her whole militia into our world, and then… who knows? Maybe she’ll continue to open portals, continue to conquer, continue to spread her rule across the dimensions. Files points out that the portals, as they are, are becoming increasingly unstable, but Ozma cuts him off. She knows that, she says, she doesn’t need explanations, she needs solutions.

Files seems to take this as a final cue to remove himself from this uncomfortable room and starts to leave, mumbling right away, Your Majesty. He’s stopped by the arrival of the Lion, who clomps down the stairs cheerily, Silver Slippers box in tow. It’s as if she’s just stepped off the threshold of Phil and Glinda’s apartment last week and arrived here. I remember that it’s still May 15th to her, that time doesn’t make sense anymore.

She plants the box in front of Ozma. Happy baby! She exclaims. Ozma, unamused, orders Files to search her. When he looks into her bag, he seems shocked. Why do you have her? He must be referring to the chicken statue I’d seen last week. Clearly “she” means a great deal to him. He doesn’t have long to question Lion before Ozma asks him to open the Slippers box.

Inside, the Slippers now have heels, very appropriate for The Queen. The Lion sits down on the couch and starts to explain that she stole the box while Oscar was arguing with Glinda, and when Ozma asks who else was there, Lion mentions Phil. Ozma winces in pain again and composes herself as Lion continues. She says that the Slippers don’t work anymore, and that Glinda was trying to teach Phil magic, but as far as she saw, she’d been unsuccessful.

So they don’t work? Well, thank you for the shoes, Ozma coos, rolling her eyes.

The Lion leans back on the couch and says she’s going to need a bit more than a “thank you” for the trouble she’s gone through for Ozma. She wants a reward.

Ozma smiles and offers the Lion a drink, Files’ glass that he hasn’t touched yet. Files puts the Slippers on her feet while Ozma continues to chat with Lion. Ozma asks if Lion has heard the rumors of a Good and Bad Ozma, and Lion responds with the same thing she told Glinda earlier: There’s no such thing as Good and Bad, only reality and survival. Ozma seems pleased at this.

 

The Storm the kansas collection the speakeasy society immersive theater queen ozma jo files

Zan Headley as General Files

 

Ozma turns to us, asking if any of us are familiar with the work of the late Doctor Pip, Lavender’s father. I’d learned a bit about him from Tik while we sat trapped, hopelessly watching Dorothy and Tinman through a keyhole so many months ago. For those of us who don’t recall, Ozma and Lion cheerfully list off some of Pip’s miracle potions: They can make you float, make you invisible, etc. Parlor tricks, scoffs Files.

All but one, says Ozma. One was commissioned by The Wizard, and used to perfection by The Scarecrow. The Liquid of Petrification.

Unfortunately, Ozma continues, the recipe was buried with Doctor Pip, but his daughter Lavender has been working on a new version and there’s been so much progress. Just a few weeks ago, a whole batch contaminated Munchkin River, she says. It was very impressive.

Five hundred people were turned to stone, stutters Files in disbelief.

Progress comes at a cost, snaps Ozma.

Ozma, now fully clad in the Slippers, asks us to all rise and give a toast to the Lion, who’s been gently coughing for some moments alongside her. We stand, and Lion’s coughing gets worse. Panic sets in her eyes. What did you do to me?

Ozma laughs, a dark cackle. Lion starts to run for the steps but doesn’t make it far before she’s frozen in place.

Her laughter subsiding, Ozma addresses us all as we stand, shocked. When you swear your oath to me, you belong to me…you no longer exist. And you don’t ask for rewards. There is only one reward I will ever give you: I will let you live.

At this, she waves her hand and Lion stiffly marches back to stand beside her. She remains motionless, except for her darting, frightened eyes. Ozma leans into her ear.

There is reality and survival. This is your reality, she purrs.

It dawns on us that Lion’s been given the Liquid of Petrification, and as Files begins to celebrate this sort of victory over Lion, he realizes who’s glass Lion had been drinking out of.

That was my glass, he says quietly.

Lavender sent me a number of samples, I had to see if they worked, Ozma rationalizes. Files looks wounded. I thought you needed me, he says.

Again, that keening laughter from The Queen.

I don’t need anyone, she giggles, explaining that there was a different potion in all of our drinks; Lion just happened to have the one that showed an effect.

 

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Jessica Rosilyn as The Lion

 

 

Files seems as confused as he does dejected, and Ozma is more than happy to clarify.  She needs two things to move forward with her plan. One: functional potions, particularly the Liquid of Petrification, to conquer the forces of Kansas once she makes her strike. And two: a portal large enough to house her entire militia as they march on this world. The first part of her plan is still in the testing stages, but now that she has the Slippers, her magic has been amplified, and the portal will soon be realized.

Files finally speaks up, trying to reason with her, but she clicks her fingers and the frozen Lion grips Files tightly by the neck, terror still in her shifting eyes. I’m sorry General, were you asking me something?

Oz forever, Files chokes out. 

Ozma tuts at him. No, Ozma forever.

She snaps again and Lion releases her hold. Satisfied, Ozma dismisses us and Files leads us all back upstairs.

 

The Storm the kansas collection the speakeasy society immersive theater queen ozma jo files

Zan Headley as General Files and Jessica Rosilyn as The Lion

Files stops us one last time before we go, ordering us to not speak of the “sensitive information” we may have heard downstairs. Yes, General, we respond without conviction. He peers around at us and starts to take his leave, but turns back.

I regret nothing, he says. Jinjur visits me in my dreams… When she finally speaks, she says the same thing over and over: Save Ozma. He looks down. I’m doing the best I can, he says, but I don’t know if even he believes it anymore.

At the door to the street, Files has one more instruction: You should know that you’re not recruits anymore, you’re soldiers. The battle is upon us. Oz  forever.

With that and a hint of a sigh, he thrusts open the door and nudges us outside. I imagine him leaning against it once it’s shut, taking a deep breath to steady himself before he returns to the side of his Queen.

 

 

All photos by Model05 Productions.

 

You can find more information about The Kansas Collection and upcoming Speakeasy Society shows, including the upcoming finale to Kansas, on their website, Instagram, and Facebook. Please see our Event Guide for more immersive theater in the Los Angeles area.

 

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About The Author

Cristen Brinkerhoff
Haunting Glowing A - Immersive Theater - Extreme Haunts - Horror Experiences
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