It’s time for a visit to Narnia, the land where it’s “always winter and never Christmas.”
The Family Education for Christ Youth Theatre Ensemble will present “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” on Nov. 18 and 19 at the Tybee Post Theater.
Join Lucy, Peter, Edmund and Susan Pevensie in a magical kingdom filled with talking animals, elves, unicorns and centaurs as they fight an evil witch to save Narnia.
“It’s a great story,” says Melissa Turner, executive director of the Tybee Post Theater. “This is a very ambitious project by this huge homeschool group. It’s going to be a nice way for families to kick off the holidays.”
Christianna Mancha is the producer and director of the production and founder of the ensemble putting it on.
“The FEFC is a group that has been established in the Savannah area for over 30 years,” Mancha says. “We get together cooperatively and provide opportunities for homeschooled students of the greater Savannah area and the Lowcountry of South Carolina.”
There are 29 students in the cast of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”
“We auditioned in August and started rehearsing,” Mancha says. “We lost some rehearsal time because of Hurricane Matthew.
“But the biggest challenge and most wonderful part is that it’s a brand-new startup. This is our inaugural production.”
As a Christian allegory, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” seems a perfect choice for the FEFC’s first production.
“I knew it would have name recognition because of it being a classic of literature,” Mancha says. “It’s very well known in the homeschool community and has a good reputation in the homeschool community, as well. In the general larger population, a lot of people have grown up with it.
“Also, we were looking for a play for young men to act in,” she says. “This one has lots of action.”
Mancha is uniquely qualified to produce and direct the production.
“I am a seasoned director,” she says. “I’m an active duty military spouse and did lots of theater with the military overseas.
“I’ve won some awards through military competitions, but here I was, starting from scratch. I didn’t have a stick of wood to build a set with.
“As it turned out, people came out of the woodwork to help. Lumber was donated and someone donated large amounts of fabric for costumes.
“A friend of mine who is a graphic artist donated time to design beautiful posters and playbills for us,” Mancha says. “There are seamstresses who have done workshops with the students and made beautiful costumes. We’re pulling together the resources.”
A homeschool mother herself, Mancha was concerned about potential audiences being able to afford to come see the play.
“Our goal was to create low-cost, affordable theater for people participating as actors and crew, and something affordable for a large part of the community who would like to see good community theater,” she says. “You can’t take a family to the theater at the cost of $20 apiece.
“We want to have productions with a high level of excellence,” Mancha says. “We want all the actors as well as the audiences to walk out saying, ‘That was a good experience.’”
Every student in the production is homeschooled.
“This brings the opportunity for homeschooled students to participate in the arts in an affordable manner with other homeschooled students,” Mancha says. “All the parents are affected by the challenges of homeschool scheduling. We’re creating opportunities for students who are maybe not athletic or artistic to have artistic experiences.”
The lessons learned in producing a play are valuable ones, Mancha says.
“Theater is about learning how to collaborate,” she says. “The students are learning how to root for each other and cheer each other on. This is a truly artistic team player experience.”
There was no lack of interest when Mancha started the theater ensemble.
“I became friends with other homeschool parents on Facebook,” she says. “Some parents approached me and said, ‘We don’t have anything available locally for theater.’
“I started gauging interest and put my name out there to see who showed up,” Mancha says. “I’ve had fabulous people who’ve showed an interest in starting a theater program.”
In addition to the ensemble, Mancha is active in local community theater.
“I was in a production of ‘Hamlet’ with Savannah Shakes at the Tybee Post Theater more than a year ago,” she says. “I’ve been planning this production since last September.
“I began a conversation with Melissa Turner, the executive director of the Tybee Post Theater. She was able to work out a very equitable price for me to use the theater that was doable for us. She was really kind and accommodating and is excited about working with us.”
“’The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ is a good way for the whole family to share the theater experience,” Mancha says.
“A lot of creative energy has gone into this production,” she says. “It’s a great play enjoyed by young and old and all different age groups.
“There’s action and adventure,” Mancha says. “There are really, genuinely talented young people who wouldn’t necessarily get this opportunity without our theater group.”
IF YOU GO
What: FEFC Theatre Ensemble’s “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 18, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Nov. 19
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave., Tybee Island
Cost: $12 adults, $7 youth