One of the many questions we have received at the Logos Theatre is “Why Narnia?” Why would we choose NOW to produce one of the most well-known classic series of literature on the Logos Theatre stage? That question is best answered by the author of the story, C. S. Lewis:
“The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood.... At first I had very little idea how the story would go. But then suddenly Aslan came bounding into it. I think I had been having a good many dreams of lions about that time. Apart from that, I don’t know where the Lion came from or why he came. But once he was there, he pulled the whole story together...”
And with that, the manuscript for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was completed in 1949. One might think in reading this classic series that its author had always held strong beliefs about God and the Bible, but it was not so for C. S. Lewis. Although he was raised in a religious family, he became an atheist at age 15, describing himself as paradoxically “angry with God for not existing”. He viewed religion as a chore and began to gain interest in the occult.
Lewis’ studies in the works of George MacDonald and the influence of conversations with his friend, J.R.R. Tolkien, however, began to turn him from atheism. Although he vigorously resisted conversion, he described his last struggle as “the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet...I gave in, admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed...”
What began as just a picture in the mind of C. S. Lewis lives as a picture of the saving work of Jesus Christ for us today! It is our hope and prayer at the Logos Theatre to help carry on the message so powerfully projected in the writings of Lewis-the message of the saving power of Jesus Christ!
Noah and Nicole Stratton assumed the Directorship of the Academy of Arts Ministries in 2010. Noah earned a BA Degree in Elementary Education from Bob Jones University, and his love for music and drama prompted him to participate in numerous local productions and led him to the Academy of Arts where he could use his talents in ministry.
Nicole, the Artistic Director of the Academy of Arts Ministry, is a graduate of The Academy of Arts Conservatory Program and received her Master of Sacred Fine Arts Degree in 2004. After given the opportunity to audition and sing with Disney World and Euro-Disney, Nicole and her family felt God’s calling was of greater importance. Nicole has directed for 18 years and has traveled to over 20 states directing week-long Drama Seminars involving well over 30,000 students and personally acting and singing in over 300 productions. Nicole has written and produced many productions for the Logos Theatre, the most recent being an adaption of the beloved series by C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia.
Noah and Nicole faithfully serve at the Logos together with their son, Brinton. They have impacted thousands of hearts by yielding their gifts to Christ and it is their desire to achieve a level of excellence at the Logos Theatre that exalts the name of Christ above all!
When my wife and I first discussed doing "Prince Caspian" on our Logos Theatre stage, we knew this would be quite a daunting task! Because, as any C.S. Lewis reader knows well, the story of Prince Caspian is absolutely filled with amazing, magical happenings that are difficult to bring to life. From animals that walk and talk, to a giant water god that breaks a bridge to bits, to a massive majestic lion, to the young Prince Caspian riding a horse to escape for his life, the story is filled with unique and challenging effects. If we were to do this story as a movie, then we could use green screen, special effects, and post production to make impossible things seem possible. But in live theatre, none of those effects can be used! However, our amazing team had already been able to produce incredible things in the past and this unbelievable story had never been done on a professional level anywhere in the world, so we decided to move forward with the project.
Our first step was to get permission from the C.S. Lewis Company and get a script in place. My wife set to work on the script with some major help from Mrs. Lori Avery. They compiled a script directly from the book and then sent it to the C.S. Lewis Co. for approval. We were directed to Douglas Gresham, the step-son of Lewis and the only remaining living person who lived with Lewis, or “Jack,” as Lewis loved to be called. Mr. Gresham was wonderful to work with and approved our script after a few small changes. We then decided to take things a step further and to ask Mr. Gresham if he could possibly come to our theatre for our premiere. As he lives on the island of Malta, we knew this would be a long shot, but we asked him nonetheless. To our amazement, he had those dates free and agreed to come! And then beyond that, he volunteered to do any promotion he could for our premiere, once he arrived. We were beyond excited and immediately began making plans for him to visit TV and radio stations, speak at some special gatherings, as well as speak at our annual fundraising banquet. This was a huge boost to our efforts and preparations truly began in earnest for the production.
Led by our Technical Director, Ken Hines, and his brilliant assistants, Stephen Bjorkman and Justin Swain, the construction of the life-size puppet of Destrier, Caspian’s horse, was begun.
We also had the superb expertise of Harold Whittington who came in and helped us sculpt the head of the horse. Primarily made out of a special foam, Destrier soon began to take shape. The puppet was built to be run by 3 people. However, we quickly learned that this would not be an easy task as these 3 people would have to learn to move as one creature, as well as memorize the different gaits of a horse – walking, trotting, galloping, etc. The puppeteers worked tirelessly to make their movements coordinated and succinct, and we also enlisted the help of a local horse rancher to help the puppeteers with their movements. As he was watching the puppeteers walk and trot Destrier around the stage, the rancher chuckled to himself. I asked him if they were doing something wrong or needed to change something. “No,” he replied. “It just looks like a real horse!” We were thrilled to hear this and it was the first of many more comments like it. For example, my uncle thought we had simply gotten a real horse instead of a puppet when he first saw the puppet in action!
Under the careful and expert instruction of our Stage Manager, Joe Hainsworth, the majestic sets for the play began to take shape. A stone tower was constructed where Dr. Cornelius and Caspian secretly discussed their plans for Caspian’s escape. A large bridge was constructed which had to have the capability of breaking apart when the water god destroyed it, but also be quickly reconstructed for the next performance. Rugged stone outcroppings were made to depict caves and ravines. Caspian’s palace bed and headpiece (made out of the door of the wardrobe from “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”) was an especially ornate piece. The home of Trufflehunter, the badger, was constructed on a side stage and our crew ingeniously made it to look as if it was nestled underground below a giant tree. There were many more set pieces that our crew put together which made the entire story seem to leap off the stage. As I had the privilege to sit with Mr. Gresham for the premiere, I heard him whisper to me during the production that the sets were especially brilliant. Coming from Mr. Gresham, the executive producer for the three world-renowned films “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” “Prince Caspian,” and “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” was thrilling to say the least!
Led by Rachel Bjorkman, our Costume Manager, the costume crew did a wonderful job recreating the specific looks for each of our characters. With a cast of talking beasts, dwarfs, sand and water creatures, English children, giants, and royal kings and queens, our crew definitely had their work cut out for them! However, the ladies did splendid work as they meticulously sewed and constructed each costume.
For those that love the theatre, they realize how important it is to have beautiful and ornate lighting on the stage. Hannah Hainsworth did a masterful job of creating mood and mystery throughout the performance with her creative lighting. As she worked closely with Nicole Stratton on the lighting plan, they were able to come up with such focused lighting that there were almost no total black outs throughout the entire play. This made for a very cinematic effect that the audiences absolutely loved.
No play is complete without props to fully flush out a story and make it realistic and vibrant on the stage. Stephen Warren, our Prop Master, headed up the researching, building, and compiling of all the props. The realism, grandeur, and spectacle of each prop helped propel the production to an even higher level of professionalism.
The Makeup Department, headed up by Rachel Maciejack, did a spectacular job of researching the looks, and then executing those specific looks for each character. For a Narnia stage performance, this was no small feat! Complete with wigs, long ventilated beards and special effects, this production gave our Makeup Crew a great challenge – but one our crew delivered on with flying colors.
Throughout each of these department’s jobs and assignments, Nicole Stratton, the Director, was heavily involved. Through her overall vision for the play and her specific input and consultation, the production kept a tight and well-organized look. Christian Lamas, our Choreographer, was also a key player in helping Nicole with the battle scenes and duel between King Miraz and King Peter. As Nicole worked tirelessly through the many hours of rehearsals, she was able to instill into the cast the mindset and the principles needed to deliver a beautiful, touching, powerful and mind-blowing performance.