“The story behind it is interesting, the allegorical nature of it. What does C.S. Lewis really mean?”
Jesse Siak, Charleston Stage’s associate director of education, has been wanting to direct The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe for a while now. He finally gets his chance, with the show playing at Dock Street Theatre, Jan. 25-26 and Feb. 1. Tickets are $31 and can be purchased online.
In addition to the Dock Street performances, Siak and crew take The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to area schools with six different performances, each one reaching about 450 students. As Siak puts it simply, “A lot of kids are gonna get to see the show.”
The show, whose cast is comprised of actors grades 6-12, is appropriate for elementary, middle, and high school students — and adults, too, of course. “It’s a good way for kids to dig deeper into stories and not take everything at face value,” says Siak.
For those unfamiliar with C.S. Lewis’ wildly popular fantasy series, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe follows the Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy as they enter the world of Narnia through a wardrobe.
As with so many of Charleston Stage’s productions, the scale of this show is “huge.” Siak wanted to take the world of Narnia that most people are familiar with — more often than not, from the 2005 major motion picture — and give it more of an Icelandic feel.
“I wanted to encapsulate the ice world,” says Siak, who enlisted set designer Cody Rutledge to help create his concept of a Viking aesthetic. Rather than having each character wear a fully fleshed out animal costume, Siak utilized face paint, matted hair, and lots of fur on each actor. For example, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver wear sashes in the back of their costumes, meant to represent tails.
The show’s music will reflect this Viking theme, too; the sound designer researched old Norse language and utilizes those words and sayings as the lyrics in songs. “That was the plan — to create a whole other world,” says Siak. “It’s identifiable, but I feel, as an artist, it’s interesting for an audience to bring them something they haven’t seen, so they can still be surprised.”
With a large cast, a moveable set, and a number of performances, this show is not for young actors faint of heart.
“I wanted to make it complicated and challenging for the students involved so they could learn something,” says Siak. “So often we see kids as almost second class citizens. They’re smarter than I will ever be. I approached this as if it wasn’t a kids’ show, but a show for adults that kids will see.”
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