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Paul Bunyan Playhouse to host 'Narnia'

The curtains will open on a magical world on Friday at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse.

The Jules Tasca musical play "Narnia" based on C.S. Lewis' story, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," is a collaborative effort by the Playhouse, Bemidji Community Theater and the Headwaters School of Music and the Arts, with help from the Bemidji State University Theater Department.

The play will open at 7:30 p.m. Friday and run until May 14. Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Matinee times for Saturday performances are at 1 p.m. with Sunday performances at 2 p.m. at the Chief Theater, home of the Paul Bunyan Playhouse. There will also be a performance on May 11 reserved for students from area schools. Before seeing the play, the students familiarized themselves with the story using a study and discussion guide produced by Theatreworks.

Tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for children. Tickets are on sale at the Headwaters School of Music and the Arts, 519 Minnesota Ave. N.W., 444-5606.

The play, directed by Sarah Einerson and underwritten by Bemidji area dentists and their spouses, will feature a cast of 26 children from kindergarten age to high school, and one adult. The adult, Kirk Karstens, plays several roles, including the Lion Aslan, Father Christmas and the four Pevensie children's professor and country house host. The Pevensies are Wil Hart as Peter, Eva Anderson as Susan, Chance Anderson as Edmund and Annie Schwinghammer as Lucy.

Janet Brademan, director of the Headwaters School of Music and the Arts, said the original plan was to stage "The Hobbit." "But there aren't many parts for young ladies," she said.

Einerson, a theater graduate from Texas Tech University, received a parcel of scripts from a former teacher and was charmed by the musical "Narnia." She also teaches theater to children at the Headwaters School, so some of the actors for the play come out of her classes.

Brademan said the play has brought together children whose paths don't usually cross, from charter schools, Bemidji School District, Heartland Christian Academy and home schools.

The story revolves around the four Pevensie children who have been evacuated from London during the World War II blitz to the safety of a large home in the country. There they discover a magic wardrobe that is the entry to the kingdom of Narnia. In the kingdom they meet the White Witch, played by Anna Kelly, who has put a curse on Narnia to make it always winter but never Christmas. The Pevensie children link up with Aslan to work against the spell.

Einerson said the production works because of the commitment of everyone involved.

"The mothers, the families, the fathers are asking, 'What can I do?' It's become such a community project," she said.

The music director for the play is Julie Conlon and Marina Lovell is the pianist.