Through the wardrobe: ECCT brings Narnia to life

posted March 2, 2017 12:00 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Emily Miels. bio | email

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    Staff photo by Emily Miels | Enlarge
    - Clockwise from left, Grace Pichler (as Susan), Ben Pichler (as Peter), Castle Dettinger (as Edmund) and Ava Schultz (as Lucy) pose during a rehearsal for the Eau Claire Children’s Theatre’s upcoming production of the beloved Narnia tale, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

When Grace Pichler first read the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, she wanted nothing more than to experience the magical, exciting fantasy world for herself. 

“When I read the book and when I heard the book when my mom read it to me, I just thought, ‘How cool would it be if I could actually go to Narnia?’ ” she said. 

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Ava Schultz agreed and added, “Narnia is so cool. It’s just one of those things where it’s like, how come this just can’t be real?” 

Now, they get to visit and explore Narnia on a regular basis as cast members in the Eau Claire Children’s Theatre’s production of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” based on the book of the same name in the popular series. 

“I auditioned, and I’m up here, and it is real,” said Schultz, who plays Lucy. “I’m able to go to Narnia.” 

“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is the story of four siblings — Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy — who discover the magical land of Narnia after traveling through a wardrobe. There they learn of their destiny and have to defeat the evil witch with the help of the great lion Aslan. 

“It’s one of those classic stories with the heroes and the enemies and just a bunch of characters you can grow to love, and then there’s this big huge war at the end,” said Ben Pichler, who plays the eldest sibling, Peter. 

Preparing for the battle scenes in the show has been a lot of fun, cast members said. 

“My favorite scene is when it’s just me and the wolf and ... it’s this epic climactic battle,” Ben Pichler said. “It’s really cool.” 

Castle Dettinger, who plays Edmund, said there’s some “really cool” fight choreography throughout the show and everyone involved has been fun to work with. 

“I think when people watch the battle scenes, they’ll feel the excitement and just feel like they’re a part of it and it’ll be really, really cool,” he said. 

Cast members said they’ve enjoyed bringing the characters they’ve read about to life on stage. 

It has been easy channeling Susan, Grace Pichler said, since she relates to eldest sister’s motherly, protective qualities. 

“That’s easy for me because in real life I’m the oldest of five and so it was easy for me to step into that role of the caretaker and nurturer,” she said of her role. 

 It’s also been fun playing stage siblings with her real life brother, Ben.

“It’s not too hard to pretend we’re siblings,” Grace Pichler said with a laugh. 

While “pretending” to be siblings in the show may be easy, always keeping a straight face on stage is not, they joked. 

“Because we’re real life siblings, it’s hard not to crack up on stage when we’re trying to act,” Ben Pichler said. 

While Narnia may be a mysterious place with magic and different creatures, there’s something relatable about it, Dettinger said. 

“It’s so different from normal reality, yet it has a lot of similarities,” he said. “You can relate to the characters and you can just fall in love with them.” 

The beloved fantasy tale is full of positive messages about forgiveness, family and leadership, cast members said, which is part of what makes the story so special. 

“There’s a lot about seeing the good in people and pushing aside the bad,” Schultz said. 

C.S. Lewis, who died in 1963, first published “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” in 1950. Since then, the Narnia book series has sold over 100 million copies, according to Lewis’ official website. 

A film version, titled “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardobe,” was released in 2005. It received multiple awards, including an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Makeup and nominations for sound and visual effects.  

Grace Pichler said the stage version is similar to the book, minus some parts that are cut out for brevity. 

“I would say that this version is a lot closer to the book than even the movie is,” she said. 

Cast members said those involved with the production have been working hard and they hope audiences, especially fans of the series, will enjoy visiting and exploring Narnia with them. 

“If you’ve always been a fan of the story and you’ve always wished you could go through the wardrobe, go through the coats, and come into Narnia, it kind of feels like fulfilling your dream and getting as close as you can get to Narnia,” Dettinger said. 

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