Fans of C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” book series are in for a treat this month, as the Road Less Traveled Community Theatre Company presents its children’s show “The Magician’s Nephew” Aug. 13-18. Shows will be in the group’s black box theatre in Farley, at 111 1st. Street, NE., across the street from Greenwood’s Grocery. Showtimes are Aug.13-17 at 7 p.m., and Sunday, Aug. 18, at 2 p.m.
The Magician’s Nephew is the story of Professor Digory Kirke, who owns the famous Wardrobe, as a young boy. In a quest to help his mother, he and his friend, Polly, fall victim to the magical schemes of Uncle Andrew, who tricks them into putting on rings that transport them to another world. There they meet Jadis and accidentally bring her back to London. Quick thinking allows them to get her out of London and into a world that is just being formed, but Uncle Andrew has also come along and Jadis is on the warpath. As they meet Aslan, decisions must be made about what is right and good and what people must be willing to give up to get what they want.
The work is just the latest for the company, which Jennifer Maki formed in 2015. The group’s first performances were in Western Dubuque High School’s new auditorium when school was not in session. The group moved to its Farley location in 2017.
“We are currently in our fourth season,” Maki said. “The name of our company was voted on by the group of actors, tech crew, and volunteers who were part of those first shows. One of the pieces of our mission is to do things that other companies in the area aren’t doing — including different literature, traveling to festivals, different styles of theatre and always pushing our creativity to make our presentations something special that you won’t see anywhere else.
Maki said that the group’s latest effort dates to 2014. “The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe was performed in Epworth at the high school in the fall of 2014 and we had talked at that time about doing this show later on. When I was looking for something to follow up last summer’s “Bridge to Terabithia” I kept getting pulled back to Narnia. It’s my favorite book in the series because this is where it all starts. It’s also a film that was never made so the opportunity to see it live is rare.”
Current membership in the theater group numbers 15 and versatility is key, since the cast and crew are one and the same, with the actors also helping do the shifts between scenes. Maki directs, Wes Beitzel serves as stage manager and Ted Tenney heads up the music crew.
“Our membership is growing and we add new faces with each production from many communities within Dubuque County, and including members from Illinois and Wisconsin who work in this area,” said Maki. “It’s a growing family.”
According to Maki, the presentation works well with a child’s natural sense of wonder. “Kids like a good fantasy. Stories like this invite that belief and the sense of wonder people seem to lose when they become adults,” she said. “Having company members involved from a variety of ages allows a unique sharing of this experience from many perspectives, that enriches the experience for the performers and the audience. Drama is a wonderful tool for increasing literacy.”