Two actors adapt the Narnia world to the Kodiak stage

Matt Freeman and Stephanie Ann Foster. (Photo by Devin Cooper)

The world of Narnia has come to the Kodiak stage.

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San-Francisco based actor Stephanie Ann Foster adapted one of the novels in C.S. Lewis’ famous series. And two actors portray all the characters.

Foster’s co-actor, local teacher Matt Freeman, said “The Magician’s Nephew” was published after “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”, and it’s a prequel.

“This one’s not as well known for some reason, probably because of that prequel nature that it has, but it’s really the origin story of Narnia,” Freeman said. “There’s a creation scene, and how these kids from London stumble into it is fascinating.”

Foster and Freeman met at Hollins University, where they were enrolled in the children’s literature program, and it wasn’t until later that they paired up on the Narnia novels.

They’re performing the play themselves in what’s called a two-hander – a two-man play. They say it’s all in the voices and their physicality.

Freeman provides one of the main characters as an example.

“Digory I figure is about 10, 11, a young boy, and so you’re a little more loose limbed, a little more energy of youth I might say,” Freeman explained. “Later on I’m Aslan, and we have him walk very stately. He’s not gonna be anxious or jittery. It’s very smooth and stately.”

Foster said they also distinguish between characters’ class using accents. She said she chose to adapt the Magician’s Nephew because she has a love for the series and Freeman helped her work out some of the challenges she faced along the way.

“The material is both precious and in some ways dated, so there are some things taken for granted,” Foster said. “For example, Polly, as the girl character, isn’t in school, and there’s no explanation given for that. And Polly, as the female in the play, doesn’t know how to swim, and there’s no explanation given that. So, we tried to just be a little bit sensitive to that by adding really tiny, unobtrusive explanations into the text. When he says, ‘Can you swim?’ instead of saying no, Polly says ‘We weren’t allowed.’”

Foster said in that way, she tried to empower the female character without changing Lewis’s vision.

While Kodiak is the opening tour for the adaptation, Foster said the next step is to submit the script for publication.

The first performance was at the Kodiak Public Library on Friday, Jan. 6.

Foster and Freeman are also holding a Through the Wardrobe art contest. They’re asking kids in elementary, middle school, and high school to submit artwork to the theme of the Magician’s Nephew. Entries are due at the Kodiak Public Library by January 12.