Homeschoolers to present 'Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe'

Edmond (Joey Gamrat) has his first encounter with the White Witch (Kelli Spedden). (Click for high resolution image.)
Huntington, Ind.—Huntington Area Home Educators in conjunction with Huntington University will present “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” at 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 26, 2006, in the Zurcher Auditorium of the Merillat Centre for the Arts. Admission is $2, and tickets will be available at the door.

Huntington University senior Becca Rodgers took on the play as her senior project. A native of Lincoln, Ill., she holds a double major in theatre design and theatre performance. Rodgers connected with the homeschool organization through the University's Enterprise Resource Center. The ERC received a request from HAHE asking for a student to put on a production.

Around the table (clockwise) are Mr. Beaver (Granger Clark), Edmond (Joey Gamrat), Peter (Caleb Alexander), Mrs. Beaver (Abi Kline), Lucy (Dana Stoffel), and Susan (Alyssa Kissell). (Click for high resolution image.)
“When Professor (Mike) Burnett told me there was an opportunity to work with this area’s homeschooled children, it sounded like the perfect chance for the children to learn about and participate in theatre and the perfect senior project for me,” Rodgers said.

Involved in the production are 24 children, ranging in age from seven to 18. Five students from the University also will appear in the show.

“I think that the biggest challenge in putting this production together was casting. It would have been so easy had only three or four of the children auditioning had been good. Unlucky and lucky me, I had 20 different children that I could put 20 different places,” Rodgers said.

Edmond (Joey Gamrat) is taunted by a dwarf (Isabel Nugyen) and the White Witch(Kelli Spedden). (Click for high resolution image.)
Amy Kissell, mother of 11 year-old Alyssa who will play “Susan” in the production, said this experience has been a win-win for Rodgers and the children.

“It provides a real-world situation for Becca, and for our kids, this would not be an experience we could typically duplicate in the homeschool environment. With the arts, you either have to hire a private tutor or pray for an experience like this. We are very fortunate to have the college. It’s really been an aid to us,” she said.

Professor Mike Burnett, chairman of the Department of Theatre Arts, said Rodgers’ experience at the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival and the Lexington Children’s Theatre provided her with experience that she could apply to this project.

Mr. Tumnus (Kaitlyn Kline) meets Lucy (Dana Stoffel). (Click for high resolution image.)
“I think Becca’s biggest strengths are her overwhelmingly positive attitude and optimistic attitude. That, coupled with her knowledge of theatre, makes for a great teacher for young thespians,” Burnett said.

Prior to producing “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” Rodgers taught a fall semester drama workshop for Huntington Area Home Educators’ children. She covered topics such as lighting, set design, and voice projection. The workshop sparked an interest in some young actors and actresses.

“My daughter Alyssa’s initial reaction was ‘I’ll go along if my friends are going.’ By December, Becca had her hooked. Every day, she’s got her bag packed, and she’s ready to go drama practice. She’s so excited,” Kissell said.

Rodgers hopes to catapult her love of working with children and her passion for theatre into a career. She plans to apply to graduate school, and she recognizes that opportunities like her senior project will set her apart from others.

“Just working with the children in a project like this can speak for my experience when applying at grad schools and future potential employers. I've had to become more innovative with incentives than I have been in the past,” she said.

The success of Rodgers’ senior project has encouraged her professors to persist with pursuing collaborative ventures.

“I’d like to see something like this continue. Hopefully it can blossom into something that involves more than just homeschool students. With our summer theatre camp starting this year, it would be nice to have some sort of after school theatre program for all of the Huntington County youth. It worked this year, and could work in the future, given the right circumstances. Knowing that there is a strong desire and support for it will help us as we plan for our future productions and seasons,” Burnett said.

Huntington University students involved in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”

· Director: Becca Rodgers, senior from Lincoln, Ill., majoring in theatre design & theatre performance

· Stage manager: Matt Schownir, a freshman history major from Huntington, Ind.

· Set designer: Zarin Barnes, a senior theatre design major from Peru, Ind.

· Lighting technician: Brad DeYoung, a sophomore theatre design major from Lansing, Ill.

· Sound technician: Justin Miller, a sophomore English Education major from Parker, Colo.

· Costume designer: Abi Allwein, a freshman theatre design major from Fort Wayne, Ind.

· Makeup artist: Cara Bussis, a freshman theatre performance major from Holland, Mich.

· Assistant makeup artist: Kylie Edmonds, a junior theatre performance major from Bourbon, Ind.

· The witch's army: Laura Brautigam, a senior theatre performance major from Westfield, N.Y.; Nikki Barger, a senior theatre performance major from Celina, Ohio; Amanda Carr, a freshman theatre design major from Anderson, Ind.; Hayley Johnson, a freshman English education major from Fort Wayne, Ind.; and Carmen Schlatter, a sophomore psychology major from Fort Wayne, Ind.

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Huntington University is a comprehensive Christian college of the liberal arts offering graduate and undergraduate programs in more than 70 academic concentrations. U.S.News & World Report ranks Huntington among the best colleges in the Midwest. Founded in 1897 by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Huntington University is located on a contemporary, lakeside campus in northeast Indiana. The University is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) and in 2004 was named one of the 50 best Christian places to work by Christianity Today magazine.  


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