The stage inside of San Luis Obispo’s Little Theatre on Palm Street is slowly transforming into the snowy wonderland of Narnia.
Igloos are being fashioned out of chicken wire and newspaper. Fur coats, tails and ears fill the dressing room, waiting to transform the actors into woodland creatures. At the edge of the stage, the iconic lamppost of C.S. Lewis’ magical world serves as a meeting point for the children actors during rehearsal.
On Jan. 14, the Little Theatre will showcase the play “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardobe.”
The story, still frequently read as well as acclaimed on the big screen, will be acted out under the guidance of director Shelagh Garren and feature young actors from the Academy of Creative Theater Program (ACT), which is an afterschool year-round theater program offering classes for children to improve their acting skills. During the winter and summer seasons, the aspiring children actors put on productions for the community.
Cal Poly theatre alumna Kerry DiMaggio is the coordinator of ACT who helps run the children’s program.
DiMaggio said part of the reason this play was chosen is because “it was such a classic story — it still speaks to audiences and it’s timely.”
San Luis Obispo high school student and ACT actress Mackenzie Allen said her involvement is due in large part to Garren.
“One reason a lot of us stay is because of Shelagh,” Allen said. “We can’t get enough of her.”
The children in the Academy started rehearsing in October, perfecting the story of four children who discover an imaginary world, Narnia, through the back of a wardrobe. The children go on to help the creatures of Narnia overpower the evil White Witch and give the throne to its rightful owner — a courageous lion. The fantasy-filled, family-oriented story has been around since the 1950s and recently made a comeback in theaters as the “Chronicles of Narnia” series.
For this play in particular, Allen said special lighting effects make the magic of Narnia visible.
The magic behind the lighting is controlled by Cal Poly electrical engineering senior Dylan Pavelko, who volunteers for the Academy to handle the lighting for the production.
DiMaggio said several ACT members joined the program at a young age and have continued all the way through high school, such as Allen who said she has participated in ACT since she was 11 years old.
Allen’s experience at the Academy helped her land the part of the White Witch. Allen described her costume for the part as an icicle-capped crown with blue lights, a white fur trimmed cape, a corset and long, flowing dress.
In addition to the witch’s costume, all costumes for the cast were handmade by Sharon Woodside and Karen Miles. The two costume designers have spent countless hours making the costumes for the children, but Woodside said their efforts pay off on the big day.
“When a kid goes out (after putting on their costume) and says, ‘I’m that character,’ that’s why I do this,” Woodside said. “Their whole attitude changes when they put on the costume. They get into character and have a feeling of confidence in themselves.”
DiMaggio said she expects opening night to be a success when the children finally put on their costumes for the big day.
The show will run from Jan. 14 to Jan. 30 with two shows each day of the weekend, one at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for children under 13 years old. For more information about the production or to get involved with the Little Theatre, check out their website: www.slolittletheatre.org.