by Lorie Lewis Ham
This weekend the Enchanted Playhouse will be presenting the play, Prince Caspian, at the Fox Theatre in Downtown Visalia. We took a moment to chat with the show’s director Kelly Ventura.
KRL: What has it been like directing this show?
Kelly: I have to say that I’ve enjoyed directing this show immensely. Prince Caspian will be the seventh show I’ve directed for The Enchanted Playhouse Theatre Company. I started directing shows for other companies when I was 18, and I was thankful for that experience at such a young age. However, this production would not have come together without my colleagues: my co-director Shanna Meier (Shanna is also the Board President) and my two student directors Lauren Ventura and Alex Quezada.
I am fortunate to work with young and talented creatives like my makeup designer Whitney Hatton, my costume designer Emily Williams, and my stagecraft assistant Rob Meier. The members of my team are constantly bringing me ideas that blow my mind. At the same time that I’ve been directing this show I have also been working with Good Company Players at the Second Space Theatre in Fresno, so I have relied heavily on my team. However, I could not do any of this without the support of my wife, Shay Ventura, and daughter Lauren Ventura. We have been the “Three Musketeers” for eighteen years now and they’ve always come through for me.
KRL: Can you tell us a bit about this play?
Kelly: The Chronicles of Narnia are so easily accessible to a wide range of individuals. Because of this, each work can be seen as a stand-alone story, but Prince Caspian is considered by most to be the sequel to The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. The story picks up one year after the Pevensie children discovered the Wardrobe, but in Narnia, thousands of years have passed, and Narnia is in desperate need of their help. Together with the exiled Prince Caspian they must rally the Narnians and fight for freedom.
This script was adapted by The Academy of Arts in Taylors, SC., and it was written by the extremely talented Nicole Chavers Stratton. It’s one of a few Prince Caspian scripts to be approved by the CS Lewis foundation. Getting the green light on this project has been quite lengthy and there were moments that I thought we were going to need to pursue my “Plan B.” I was very excited though when I finally received the email from the CS Lewis Estate giving us the go ahead. During this time period I actually received an email reply from Douglas Gresham the stepson of CS Lewis. Full confession: I totally geeked out when I received his response.
KRL: What inspired Enchanted to want to do the Chronicles of Narnia plays?
Kelly: As a director, what originally drew me to these stories was the sort of abstract way CS Lewis described the actual Wardrobe itself. CS Lewis referred to the Wardrobe as a gateway of imagination and creativity. We felt that was a perfect description of what we are all about. The Enchanted Playhouse Theatre Company is a doorway to imagination, a place where students and families can enjoy stories that inspire and ignite creativity. The Enchanted Playhouse Theatre Company hasn’t missed a step this past year and we continue providing these amazing theatrical experiences for children and families.
KRL: What do you love most about the story in Prince Caspian?
Kelly: Personally, I am a huge fan of stories where the “underdog” gets the opportunity to set things right. It’s such a common theme in our culture from the Bible to Dumas, to most comic book movies (of which I am a huge fan). And this show is all about realizing who you are and fighting for what you believe. It’s also about realizing that although we are all different in this world, we can accomplish amazing things when we unite. In this crazy world, I think those are positive messages for students.
KRL: What was the greatest challenge in directing this show?
Kelly: Since this is the first season that our organization has operated as an itinerate theatre company, I anticipated that our reliance on off-site space would be a challenge. However, over the past 6-8 months the Enchanted Playhouse Theatre Company (from board members to volunteers) has worked tirelessly to arrange and schedule off site rehearsal and set construction spaces. It has worked well, and we are moving along nicely. I personally want to thank Visalia’s Grace Lutheran Church and School, Gateway Church of Visalia, the Fox Theatre, and the Visalia Arts Consortium.
KRL: What has been the most enjoyable about directing this show?
Kelly: It is not often that a director is presented with the opportunity to do a sequel, so I consider myself blessed. Being able to return to the beloved CS Lewis world is an awesome opportunity. It’s been wonderful to get to work with some of the same people again as well. We were worried a bit that schedules, and such, would make it impossible to keep the original cast together. But for the most part we’ve been fortunate. This cast is truly like a family. Seeing familiar faces at the first table-read in August was like seeing your friends again on the first day of school. We were all like, “Wait. Didn’t we all just do this a few months ago?” We literally picked up where we left off. That being said, we had new actors come on board and we are excited to be working with a ton of these newcomers to The Enchanted Playhouse Theatre Company.
KRL: What ages are the cast?
Kelly: Including our dance ensemble (which is a first for The Enchanted Playhouse Theatre Company and I’m excited about it) we have about 35 cast members ranging in age from ten to fifty-five.
KRL: Are there any cast members that were also in Enchanted’s production of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe?
Kelly:Yes, many of them came over from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Not everyone is playing the same roles, but a lot of the Lion Cast is in this show.
KRL: Does Enchanted plan to do plays of more of the books in the series?
Kelly: Um…I am sworn to secrecy. Really though, we certainly love the CS Lewis works and find that the themes and lessons taught in these works are synonymous with the values we support as a theatre company. And I’d love to do another CS Lewis show if it makes sense. Also, anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan of the “pirate/swashbuckling” genre in literature and movies, so I would be lying if I said I haven’t seriously thought about Voyage of the Dawn Treader. So, you never know. These CS Lewis books have everything from stage combat fighting to strange creatures to true love. (Wait…did I just sound like Peter Falk from The Princess Bride?) Really though, these works are a ton of fun for children and families. So, it is definitely within the realm of possibility that The Enchanted Playhouse Theatre Company will feature another CS Lewis work on stage.
KRL: Why only one weekend with this show?
Kelly: As I mentioned this is our first year as an itinerant theatre company. We were attracted to the Fox Theatre as a potential venue over the last year and our two organizations began meeting. Our mission as an organization is to reach the children and families of Tulare, Kings, and Kern counties. Thanks to the Fox working graciously with us, we are able to reach the same number of students in one weekend as opposed to three weekends. Ticket wise, most of our school shows for Prince Caspian are at capacity. Once we reached that ticket threshold, we knew it was the right move for us.
KRL: What has been different about putting this show together at the Fox Theatre as opposed to the Main Street Theatre?
Kelly: Again, the difference is really just getting used to functioning differently as an organization. And we are doing that well. I am a believer that you cannot always control the things that happen to you, but you can control how you respond. Sometimes negative things can freeze and paralyze an organization. However, The Enchanted Playhouse Theatre Company never stopped fulfilling our mission. In fact, over the past year The Enchanted Playhouse Theatre Company has seen more growth and progress than at any other point in our history as an organization.
We’ve moved on and a lot of stuff is in our rearview mirror. We knew we would never cease to exist. It was never a question as to whether or not we would stop our mission. But the events of the past two years have made The Enchanted Playhouse Theatre Company better, challenging us to find new ways to fulfill our purpose. Since leaving the Main Street Theatre, we haven’t skipped a beat thanks to our board members, our volunteers, and our faithful community supporters.
KRL: That is wonderful to hear! What are the dates and times of the shows and the price of the tickets?
Kelly: Thursday, October 24 at 7 p.m., Friday, October 25 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, October 26 at 4 p.m. Ticket prices range from $6-$20.
KRL: Where can tickets be purchased?
Kelly: Tickets can only be purchased through the Fox Theatre website, which will lead buyers directly to the Eventbrite ticketing platform. Or if folks would like to save on the fees, tickets can be purchased at the Fox Theatre Box Office. Check the Fox Theatre website for box office hours.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Kelly: It has sort of become a forgone conclusion that all of my shows involve some form of Stage Combat. (And for the most part that’s pretty accurate except for A Christmas Story.) True to form, this show is no different. There are five large fight scenes in this show that I believe audiences will enjoy. It has been an honor to work with COS alum Chris Borden who has choreographed all of the fight scenes. Chris lives in Southern California now doing stage combat in television and film. So almost every cast member has gone through his extensive, rigorous training course. With that in mind, we are offering a VIP Experience ticket this year which includes advanced seating, as well as character picture and autograph opportunities.
The VIP ticket also includes a fun (and safe) Stage Combat lesson given by one of our cast members on stage prior to the show. We’ve developed a good working relationship and I look forward to working with Chris on my next show for The Enchanted Playhouse Theatre Company. (A show involving a map, an island, and a certain famous pirate.)
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can also find the podcast on iTunes/Apple Podcasts Spotify, and Google Play, and also on podbean. You can actually hear Kelly Ventura in a recent podcast episode that is perfect for Halloween listening!
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