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  • Tasha Schuh

21 Years Later: Watching The Scene That Changed My Life

Today, I celebrate my 21-year anniversary of my accident. As my anniversary began to approach, I started wondering what I would do this year to reflect. The last two years have been memorable: first, going back to the theater and showing the actual trapdoor that I fell through, and last year having my 20-year anniversary celebration. I wanted to do something special again this year, as this date means so much to me.

While I brainstormed for this, Doug and I purchased our tickets for the musical production at Ellsworth High School; we enjoy going each fall to support the program and see the wonderful talent that continues to blossom in my small hometown. I had been told multiple times that the school would be performing “The Wizard Of Oz” this year (the play that I was practicing for when my accident occurred), but I’d also been told that it was going to be very different, almost futuristic, so I expected a different play than the one that I was injured in.

As Doug and I arrived for the play I was excited to see the fruit of all the students’ hard work in these past months… I remember the hours upon hours of practice and the excitement and the thrill right before the curtain went up. Once the production was underway, I soon realized this was the exact same script that we had been rehearsing all those years ago. Eventually the bridge was wheeled onto the stage.… The exact scene change when my accident happened.

Over the years, when I tell the story many people are confused as to what actually happened when I fell. As I talk about the bridge, many people think to themselves, “I don’t remember a bridge being in the Wizard of Oz.” That is true. This scene is only in the play version, not in the movie version. The video above shows the scene; scarecrow and Dorothy are trying to cross a bridge, but the wicked witch casts a spell so they cannot get across.

Two years ago for my anniversary, I showed you the trapdoor. This year I’d like to show you the bridge and explain what was happening on stage, as shown in the pictures and video. In the production that I was practicing for, we were renting out the Sheldon Theater in Red Wing Minnesota because my high school had no stage to perform on. My town had just passed a referendum to build a new stage for productions, but it would not be completed until the following year. The Sheldon is a professional theater with every type of theatrical effect available, including trap doors. The evening prior to the accident we moved everything over to the theater, as we had been practicing in the Ellsworth Junior High gym for the past two months. It was our last week of rehearsal and the only thing we had not practiced yet were the scene changes, since we needed to be on the actual stage to properly rehearse these. Many things had to be worked out since there were many theatrical effects in this production… Witches disappearing and reappearing, objects magically turning, etc. There was still a lot of work to be done in order for the curtain to go up on Thursday with a successful production.

The scene change with the bridge had taken us six minutes in our rehearsal the previous night. When we arrived that day we knew that hard work would need to be done in order to slice that time down to 30 seconds. For this to occur more people had to help, and that is where I came in. During the previous evening’s rehearsal I was not near where the trapdoor was - I was off to the side of the stage with my job being to take a prop and place it on stage. Upon arriving this evening, I was assigned a new job… I was still putting the same prop on stage but they had now put all of the props on to this bridge that was going to be wheeled out onto the stage. My job was to wait for the bridge to be wheeled out, take my prop off of it and place it where I had the night before. The goal was to make this more time effective. There was one little problem however - Everyone had been told the night before about the trapdoor being open … everyone that is except me. The rest is history. As I was standing on stage waiting for the bridge to come towards me they removed the trapdoor cover directly behind me. Since I was standing between the bridge and the trapdoor, someone told me to move out of the way; as I stepped backward to do so I immediately plummeted to the basement of the theater.

Many people have asked me over the years, “Why was the trapdoor open?” When you watch the video above, you’ll see that the scene involved making scarecrow and Dorothy come back out the same direction; the way they were going to do this was to spin the bridge from the basement so it would look like it was magically turning, thus the choice for the trapdoor to be opened and utilized (as you can see in this production, they had the stage crew turn it from the stage floor). So, to answer that question, It was supposed to be open – I just didn’t know it.

Here are some pictures that I took from the video of our production to show you what the bridge looked like in our production:

Many of you know already know the story, but for those of you who have always wondered I thought I would share more detail this year, especially from the perspective of the bridge.

As I watched this scene unfold, 21 years later, I immediately was filled with so many emotions. Tears filled my eyes. I couldn’t believe that I was watching this exact scene… This scene where my life was changed so drastically. These tears were twofold; first it was a bit of sadness because many times I forget that this actually happened to me. In speaking, I sometimes feel like I’m telling someone else’s story and have these fleeting moments when I am reminded of what actually happened. During these moments, I realize how easily this could have been avoided and how it would have saved many painful months for me and my family.

However, the tears also represented joy, as I realized how far I have come since falling through that trapdoor. When I was rehearsing for that scene change, I was an insecure teenager who had very small dreams and goals for the future. Now, 21 years later, I am a very different person… A better person who has accomplished more than she ever thought possible and still has huge dreams and goals still yet to be accomplished! I would have never believed that I would be speaking to thousands and impacting lives through my story. I would never have believed that I could be as happy as I am today. I would’ve never believed that I would be married to a man who loves and adores me just the way I am. And yet, because of this scene, I am living out my full potential and living the best life I could’ve ever imagined. Thank you, Ellsworth High School Drama Department, for choosing to do this production again. Even though I determine to live every day to the fullest, being reminded of where I have come from and what I have been through causes me to celebrate this day even more… To be thankful for life, to be thankful for what I have been given, and to determine to continue helping and impacting others with my message of resiliency and hope.

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