‘Wardrobe’ may be final curtain call for Enchanted Playhouse
Last scheduled shows for children’s theater company at Main Street Theatre will be ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’ March 8, 9, and 10
By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
VISALIA – This weekend is your last chance to catch the Enchanted Playhouse Theater Company’s production of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” It may also be the children’s theater company’s last performance in the Main Street Theatre, its home since 1992.
The play follows closely author C.S. Lewis’ tale of four siblings who are sent out of London during the blitz bombings of World War II to live in the countryside. There they find a magic wardrobe that transports them to the land of Narnia, where they are believed to be the ones to fulfill a prophecy to end the reign of the White Witch and signal the return of Narnia’s true ruler, the great lion Aslan.
Jaymee Meier is playing the role of Lucy, the youngest of the four Pevensie siblings. She said the character reminds her of herself. At just 11 years old, Meier is a veteran of Enchanted Playhouse Theater Company appearing in six plays in the last five years. She said the play is bittersweet for her because it is the first time she has been cast in a lead at the children’s theater but it may be the last time she is able to take the stage at the Main Street Theatre, which was sold by city in November to be redeveloped as a restaurant. She said she is sad when she thinks about the autograph wall in the theater where actors from every play have signed their names.
“I am really sad we are leaving the building, but I think it will all work out in the end,” said Meier, who shares her character’s eternal optimism.
Meier will share the stage in several scenes with Cliff Ayers, who will play Aslan. This is the 45-year-old’s first play with Enchanted Playhouse and only his second play ever. Ayers said he decided to do the play because they allow for open auditions and because his daughter, Ida Mae Jones, who is cast as one of the Christmas elves in the play. “It’s been really neat being able to share that experience with her,” Ayers said. “We will have these memories for the rest of our lives.”
One of those memories may be as part of the last cast to perform at the Main Street Theater. He said he is feeling the pressure of making his performance even more memorable because it may be the last at the historic downtown landmark.
“We need to put everything we have into this and send it out with a bang,” Ayers said. “This is the end of an era and we need to do it right.”
The play is being directed by Enchanted Playhouse boardmember Kelly Ventura, who says there is a chance that “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” may not be the last production on stage at the Main Street Theatre. He said the non-profit’s board has had a good working relationship with the new owner of the theater, JR Shannon, which may leave the door open for future performances.
“We did not go into this with the idea that it was the last show at the theater and that hasn’t colored anything we’ve done,” Ventura said. “It’s been a very positive atmosphere from the cast and the audience has really responded to the show.”
The Main Street Theatre was filled with emotion last May when actors embraced on stage following their production of Peter Pan. At that time, those involved thought the play was going to be the last every performed at the downtown theater, including Ventura who directed that play as well. He said there is nothing planned after the curtain call on the final night, March 10, of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but that he knows the theater company remains committed to community and children’s theater.
“As an organization, we have learned a lot and we are ready to turn the page and write the next chapter of the theater,” Ventura said.
Tickets are still available for the final three shows of the allegoric adventure March 8, 9, and 10. Showtimes are 7 p.m. on Friday, March 8, 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 9, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 10. Tickets are $8 and matinees are $5 and can be purchased online at www.enchantedplayhouse.org.
If these are the last days of the Main Street Theatre, Ventura said the Enchanted Playhouse will have performed more than 100 plays there since moving the theater company downtown in 1992. Ventura said no matter where the children’s theater company performs, they will continue to provide a creative outlet for children of all ages.
“Like the wardrobe, Enchanted Playhouse Theater has been a gateway to imagination for thousands of children over the years,” Ventura said. “This theater company will continue to be around for a long time.”