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The White witch, played by Eve Smyth

Creating Narnia for kids

It was 1986, or maybe &

145;87, when a performance of &

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe&

at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre left Julie Dwyer-Gower and Caroline Shaffer spellbound.

The two women, now mothers of second-graders at the local Waldorf school, can&

t recall the details of the two-actor production, but the magic of the show left an imprint on their minds.

&

I had just been mesmerized by it,&

Shaffer said. &

I remember walking away and going, &

145;Wow, that was amazing.&

&

But she and Dwyer-Gower didn&

t attend the play together almost 20 years ago. It was a conversation in the Siskiyou School parking lot while they waited for their children that revived the memory.

Shaffer, Dwyer-Gower, Bruce Wallace Hostetler and Eve Smyth were talking about how they could raise money for the school&

s scholarship program. All four have children in the Sapphire Class, the Siskiyou School&

s second grade. The class has developed a scholarship program to help make private education more accessible to families and the group of parents were trying to come up with a fundraiser for their class.

— — GET OUT

— — &

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe&

performances:&

149; Saturday, 2 p.m., at Kids Unlimited, 821 Riverside Drive, Medford&

149; Sunday, 2 p.m., at Kids Unlimited, 821 Riverside Drive, Medford&

149; Jan. 28, 6 p.m., at Oregon Stage Works, 191 A St., Ashland&

149; Jan. 29, 2 p.m., at Oregon Stage Works, 191 A St., AshlandTickets are $10 for adults, $6 for children and $30 for families. For more information, call 301-6941.

&

We&

re not really bakers,&

Dwyer-Gower said. &

We don&

t do car washes.&

— — The White witch falls to her back, defeated by — Aslan.

Dwyer-Gower does promotion and marketing work for several local nonprofits. Shaffer is in her seventh year as a member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival&

s acting company. Hostetler has directed more than 50 productions in his 15-year directing career. Smyth is an improv artist with The Hamazons and performs with the Second Saturday Players.

So they tapped in to the creative talents of the Sapphire Class parents and created a nonprofit theater company &

the Sapphire Theatre Group &

and C.S. Lewis&

&

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe&

seemed like the perfect piece for the group&

s premiere production.

&

Between all of the parents of the class, we had enough professional talent to pull it off,&

said Shaffer.

Dwyer-Gower is producing, Hostetler is directing, Smyth and Shaffer are acting in the performance and Dayvin Turchiano, who has acted at Oregon Stage Works and in the Ashland Community Theater, is the stage manager.

Creating magic

This will not be Disney&

s Narnia. It will not read through the C.S. Lewis novel.

The Sapphire Group will perform a one-act dramatization of &

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe&

by Le Clenache du Rand that runs about 45 minutes.

&

We chose this play because we love this play,&

Dwyer-Gower said explaining their production varies significantly from Disney&

s &

The Chronicles of Narnia,&

which is in the theaters now.

In the theatrical version, a fight scene lasts a moment. Shaffer and Smyth use five props and a &

magic circle&

to play 10 characters.

&

It&

s the telling of the story versus the acting out of the scene,&

Shaffer said. &

Since the style of the thing is pretty much story telling, we use a creative device.&

With the magic circle, Shaffer and Smyth related the tale of Lucy discovering the wardrobe in her uncle&

s English manor that leads into the magical world of Narnia with talking animals, mythical creatures, the wicked White Witch and, of course, Aslan.

Inside the magic circle, Shaffer and Smyth act out the scene. Vocal and physical transformations augment the trunk, hat rack, witch&

s crown and detailed mask used in the show. Outside the circle, they narrate the story.

&

We&

re trying to use their (children&

s) imaginations and not throw it in their faces,&

Dwyer-Gower said, explaining the production is about &

imagining what this could be.&

— — Lucy, played by Eve Smyth, is filled with Joy because — Aslan came back from the dead.

What it will be

The magic of &

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe&

disappears from local stages at the end of January, but the Sapphire Group will not vanish with it.

&

We want to be established,&

Dwyer-Gower said. &

We just want to bring theater to kids.&

The group&

s vision is two-fold: quality theater and fundraising for their school.

The new children&

s theater company intends to produce one show a year with professional actors that will act as a fundraiser for the class&

scholarship program. Next year, the group may perform in Grants Pass and Klamath Falls, maybe even Northern California. In the future, the Sapphire Group might also add a second production that involves children, maybe by teaming with another local kids&

theater program.

&

Perhaps there are other talented Sapphire parents who will appear,&

Shaffer said.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x 225 or jsquires@dailytidings.com.