From NUACS to Narnia
Presenting ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’
Next weekend New Ulm Area Catholic Schools (NUACS) theatre students invite the public to the magical land of Narnia with a production of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”
Performances are 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 12 and Saturday, Nov. 13 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov.14 at the NUACS theatre.
The cast and crew have been in rehearsals for the last two months and the play promises to be one of the most ambitious productions ever staged at NUACS theatre.
It includes a large cast, iconic sets and some of the most elaborate costumes ever created for a NUACS play.
“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is based on the fantasy novel by C.S. Lewis. In the story, four human children; Peter (Brendon Devries), Susan (Helen Fischer), Edmund (Brennan Glawe) and Lucy (Teresa Fischer) are staying in a large house in the English countryside.
Through chance, they all wander through an old wardrobe into the magical world of Narnia. The world is full of talking animals and other fantasy creatures that are ruled over by an evil White Witch.
“While there are some differences from the original novel’s text, we strove to keep the plot and the characterizations and the overall feel of the story as close to the C.S Lewis version as possible,” Director Michael Koester said. “My producer, in particular, is a huge fan of the novel so she helped with some of the stage directions to keep it true to the original. “Additionally, for many years, 4th graders at St. Anthony elementary have read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in the classroom, so nearly everyone who is in the production is very familiar with the story. We wouldn’t want to let anyone down so are doing our best to stay true to the text.”
The stage production is an abridged version of the original story, but Koester said there is room to expand. The script leaves room for artistic liberties. He and the cast brought their ideas and suggestions to the roles and several different scenes.
One of the most important additions was the wardrobe in the play’s title. The stage adaptation begins in Narnia. The audience never sees the four children enter the wardrobe into Naria. The production decided the wardrobe was too important of a set piece to omit.
The production includes the iconic lamp post that marks the entrance to Narnia, with the fawn. Mr. Tumnus standing guard. Tumnus is played by Jared Gleisner, who is no stranger to acting. Gleisner has taken part in 13 stage shows.
Tumnus is one of the most recognizable and beloved characters in “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe,” Gleisner said he feels no pressure in playing such an iconic character.
“He’s such a dynamic character,” Gleisner said. “It’s not stressful to play him, but it is fun.”
The elaborate costumes have aided performances. Gleisner’s costume included special legging to resemble goat feet. The final costume will also have hooves. Gleisner agreed the costume help has helped his performance.
“Mrs. Blomberg really helped solidify the right atmosphere,” he said.
Costuming for “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” was a significant challenge. Except for the four children character, everyone else in the story is an animal or creature.
“The set and costumes for this production are also a bit of a challenge as we want to do justice to the fantastical, larger-than-life world of Narnia,” Koester said. “Our customer, Margaret Blomberg, and makeup artist, Tammy Klawitter, certainly have their hands full with costuming fawns, unicorns, beavers, wolves, centaurs, lions, and more.”
Blomberg confirmed this production was NUACS’ most ambitious production in terms of costuming. She said there were 47 hours of work on the centaur costume alone. She ultimately had to consult with her engineer husband John Blomberg to figure out the mechanics of creating a functioning half-horse costume.
“Additionally, set builder Matt Sobania, and myself, with the help of our talented students, have been hard at work building set pieces such as the witch’s castle, and our set painter, Samantha Miller is busy painting an entire backdrop of the magical land of Narnia,” Koester said. “The set and costumes will be a reason to see the show in and of themselves.”
Kate Pippert has the honor of playing the centaur, a half-human half-horse creature. Pippert said the costume is difficult to move with on stage, but she is excited for people to see the final result. Pippert said the key to playing a centaur is to have a comfortable costume.
Clare Fischer is playing the play’s villain, the White Witch. It is the first time Fischer has played the villain of a story. She was surprised to find herself cast as the witch but is confident she can play the part. The
Fortunately, the production has a lot of student help to populate the world. Many of the behind-the-scenes crew will be dressed in costumed during production to fill in as extras and populate the world of Narnia.
“We have a very young cast this year, so as we rehearse we are teaching many of our students the basics of theater and being on stage for the first time,” Koester said. “The young cast also brings a lot of new energy and talent to the stage, so we are thrilled to have such an enthusiastic, young cast learning about theater and our stage in particular as they will make our job easy in future years.”