by Patty Unruh
Narnia was a magical land where four children interacted with mythical creatures, made special friends, and defeated the forces of evil. The auditorium stage of Gilpin County School was also a magical setting last week, where students brought the world of Narnia to life for their audiences on April 7, 8, and 9.
Opening night was made extra special with a supper before the performance to benefit the 2016-17 Gilpin cheerleaders. At each performance, play-goers could purchase commemorative t-shirts and bouquets for the cast and crew or pre-order CDs.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by British writer and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis, has thousands of fans through the book series and movies. During the World War II bombings of London, four English siblings are sent to a country house where they will be safe. One day the youngest child, Lucy, finds a wardrobe that transports her to a magical world called Narnia. After coming back, she soon returns to Narnia with her sister Susan and brothers Peter and Edmund. There they join the magical lion, Aslan, in the fight against the evil White Witch. The story is an allegory of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through Aslan, and its effect on Edward’s redemption and salvation, as well as the healing of Narnia from the curse of the White Witch.
This year’s excellent production was once again directed by Hannah Raynes. As a youngster, she went with her mother to a production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at a children’s theatre. The vivid memory inspired Raynes to challenge Gilpin’s young actors to perform the imaginative tale.
And there definitely were some challenges, Raynes related, but the kids rose to the occasion excitedly. The enormous puppet of Aslan, the lion, was built and then operated by two students working together. The script was adapted to add wood nymph characters that walked on stilts. Dozens of costumes were created. More than 50 elementary students learned to dance like mice and snowflakes. A makeup workshop was held to give each character a striking appearance. Elaborate sets included the Beavers’ house, White Witch’s courtyard, and the stone table where Aslan met his death and came to life again. The very length of the play – 20 scenes — called for endurance.
Special effects added even more interest. Strobe lighting made the opening air raid scene seem stunningly real, a snow machine sent flakes drifting down, and fog moved eerily around snowy pines.
The main characters were played by Archer O’Brien (Lucy), Claire Diekman (Susan), Logan Prewitt (Edmund), Jake Duncan (Peter), Anna Yocom (White Witch), Victoria Brandon and Ashley Parkhurst (Aslan puppeteers), Alicia Johnson (voice of Aslan), Aidan Freeman (Mr. Beaver), Sarah Trujillo (Mrs. Beaver), and Taby Gray (Tumnus the Faun). Carly Johnson as the White Stag provided valuable narration directly from the novel. Numerous other students rounded out the cast, tech crew, and dancers.
The production team included director Hannah Raynes, tech director Ryan Raynes, dance choreographer LA Chiucchi Dysart, costume designer Kate Schlosser, prop coordinator Jennifer Gillette, projections and elementary dance coordinator Curt Halsted, marketing director Nicki Johnson, graphic designer Jessica Moore, fight choreographer Benaiah Anderson, and stilt choreographer Angela Delsanter. Gilpin County Stitchers created the amazing costumes. The Gilpin Education Foundation provided a grant for three new microphones. Raynes thanked multiple other individuals and groups for their contributions.
C.S. Lewis ends The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by saying, “it was only the beginning of the adventures of Narnia.” We look forward to many more dramatic adventures with the Gilpin County Players.