Fort Wayne Youtheatre

The cast of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” rehearses the climactic battle scene of the Fort Wayne Youtheatre production.

The Fort Wayne Youtheatre will present the play ”The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” at the Embassy Theatre the weekend of May 1 and 2.

Productions are at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, May 1, and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 2, at the Embassy Theatre, 125 W. Jefferson Blvd., Fort Wayne. Tickets are $25 for adults or $18 for children. For more information visit fortwayneyoutheatre.org or call 260-422-6900.

Originally planned for May of 2020, the Fort Wayne Youtheatre staff modified plans when the COVID-19 health pandemic began to close events and venues. According to Executive/Artistic Director Todd Espeland, the schedule was shifted so that the play could be performed in December, at the Embassy Theatre (which would give more room for social distancing).

However, the pandemic interrupted things again. “We kind of saw the writing on the wall,” Espeland said. After three weeks of rehearsals, “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” was shelved for later use again. Instead, the Youtheatre quickly put together “A Christmas Carol” and gave the young actors a chance to present this play via Zoom, in a socially-distanced manner that was safer for all.

But now: it is time to see the whole stage play in person. As they were putting on the brakes in December, Youtheatre staff checked with “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” cast to see if they would still be available to perform in the spring.

Most of the actors were available. So, what audiences see in May will be very similar to what was anticipated for December. Espeland chuckled when he quoted Chris Murphy, who is directing the play: “It feels like he’s been directing and perfecting this show his entire adult life!”

Initially, the play was to be presented in the smaller ArtsLab theater, but the Embassy Theater offered them a lot more room for social distancing. Bigger stage, more seats, and all the benefits of being in a historic theater are something Espeland really appreciates. “We’re able to have slightly more production value,” he explained, “bigger props, more lighting … just a little bit bigger (for everything).”

There have been some modifications to the original production. Originally, Espeland said they were going to have Aslan, the lion, be a giant puppet manipulated by several actors at once. Now, Aslan will be represented by a giant mask, with only one person wearing it, for more safety. “He’ll be taking up a lot of space, so people can (understand) the size of Aslan,” Espeland said.

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