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The centaur, the set designer, and the stage

by Lenise Willis

With tall snowcapped mountains, the crunch of snow on the ground and the possibility that anything can happen, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a magical tale, and a perfect one to bring to life on the stage.

This weekend Kernersville Little Theatre will continue to awe audiences with its enchanting production, while also inspiring children and families alike to dig into a good book.

The theater chose the well-known and magical story because of its “universal appeal to adults and children,” much like last year’s fall production of Charlotte’s Web. “We wanted to tell a story that the entire family would find magical,” said Rachel Schroeder, KLT president.

KLT is well known for producing shows in which they bring children’s tales to life, in fact, it’s even part of their educational mission for the community.

The production is part of their second annual By the Book series, in which the children of Kernersville Elementary School are invited to attend special daytime performances and also receive a copy of the book.

Donations collected through the production make donating the books possible. Last year’s production of Charlotte’s Web was the first of the series, and was well received.

“I think that this makes (the kids’) learning experience more comprehensive,” Schroeder said last year before the performances. “Live theatre is more intimate and the kids can see the emotions of the characters up close and be drawn into the story.”

This year’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, with actors ranging from 8 years old to adult, is sure to inspire the whole family and remind the community of a literary classic.

“We have two very talented actresses (Caitlin Holland and Melanie Crews) that have created two distinct horse-like characters, based on their body movement and demeanor,” Schroeder said. “Even before they got their costumes, had you walked into rehearsal, you would have been able to guess which one was playing each role.”

“It’s exciting (to play a unicorn) because you have the ability to create the character of a mythical creature,” said actress Melanie Crews, “but it can be challenging to adapt to the behavior of an animal. There has certainly never been a dull moment for me onstage.”

As one would image, turning a simple black stage into a magical, snowy kingdom had its difficulties, too.

“The major set challenge was to represent multiple physical locations within one basic set idea, winter in Narnia””a cold frozen land under the control of the White Witch’s magic,” said Diana Marshall-Shoaf, director.

To transport the audience into the story, KLT created a backdrop of mountains and trees covered in snow. To give a 3D effect, they added artificial trees and rocks to draw the setting down toward the audience. Because the scenes in the play shift so quickly, paintings on casters were created to represent the house interiors behind actual tables and chairs.

“The inspiration for the set comes from a childhood memory of mine,” Marshall- Shoaf said. “Growing up in Winston-Salem there was a business downtown in the 50s and 60s that put out a large display every Christmas of a village covered in snow. The display had moving parts and ‘magical’ music playing as I would stand with my brothers and sisters looking on in awe at that wintry scene.”

Marshall-Shoaf added that they also used the wonderful light design of David Glover as well as theatrical fog to “bring a feeling of ‘other world’ atmosphere to the stage.”

“As a director, I am extremely excited that KLT continues to provide theatrical opportunities to the community that draws multi-generational groups in as audience members,” Marshall-Shoaf said. “My passion is to introduce children to live theatre and the Bring a Book to Life productions of KLT achieves that goal very successfully. !

LENISE WILLIS, a graduate from UNC Chapel Hill’s journalism school, has experience in acting and ballet, and has been covering live performances since 2010.

WANNA go?

Kernersville Little Theatre’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe runs Friday through Sunday at James Fitzpatrick Auditorium, 512 W. Mountain St., Kernersville. Tickets are $14 for adults; $12 for students and seniors; $8 for children. Tickets at the door. For more information call 993-6556 or visit kltheatre.com.

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