Photo courtesy of Ms. Rodgers Facebook

An Interview with Sarah Rodgers – Director of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at Pacific Theatre

Interiewer Eve Newstead

This year’s festive season, Pacific Theatre are remounting their production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Adapted by Pacific’s founder Ron Reed, the narrative is an imaginative sequel and return to Narnia with Peter and Lucy as adults rediscovering the wonders behind the wardrobe.Magic and nostalgia for the whole family.

After less than a minute speaking to director Sarah Rodgers, I can already feel the pre-show buzz through the phone. ‘It’s going to be amazing,’ she tells me, as she finds a quiet room backstage. Their first dress rehearsal has been a success. The background noise is a hum of energy. We agree the magic of Narnia never wanes no matter your age. “Think that everybody in their life yearns for childhood, yearns for simpler times, time of imagination and a time of play. We the adults as we gathered on our first day got quite teary talking about how we all need Narnia in our lives.”

Is a time of imagination not only synonymous with our childhoods but also with past decades, I ponder; before the age of screens, CGI, AI and constant technological stimulation? Are audiences as imaginative nowadays? “I truly believe that it still sparks joy in today's world,’ Sarah says. ‘There is a need for the magic of live theatre and I think it still evokes great wonder for children as well as adults.”

Sarah’s Narnia is back by popular demand after an incredible reception in 2018. “I am so ecstatic to have the original two actors and all the designers back,” Sarah explains, which, I note, speaks volumes about the play’s success. “In my, shall we say long career, I have done a few remounts and it’s a rare gift to have the opportunity for a remount. In theatre we are living in cycles of birth and death, and there’re so many shows I yearn to see again. If only we could breathe life into these shows again.” This year, the team have had time to dig deeper into the details of the work.

Adapting a huge scale world and eclectic cast of characters to a two actor play on smaller stage demands a specific imaginative process. “It’s very challenging. It’s very exciting. To stage a battle for example is complicated. Every single scene is like a delicious puzzle.” Lauchlin Johnston, set designer, is essential to the direction from the earliest stages. Sarah explains that their collaborative vision creates the magic. “It is a deliciously transformative set filled with surprises.”

A newbie to the Vancouver theatre scene, I ask Sarah for some insight. With a BFA in acting and MFA in directing from UBC, and a long career in the creative industry, Sarah is an artist that is a product of the Vancouver theatre community. The diversity of plays is what keeps her here. “We have a thriving theatre community. What I love about this community is that we’ve gothigh calibre theatre happening in our large theatre spaces but we also have a plethora of small theatre companies who are doing cutting edge work.” Sarah then reels off a list of theatres I must visit and shows I must see; her passion is infectious. “I’m really proud of our community,” she repeats.

Ignite the magic of Christmas with the magic of live theatre this year. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe opens this Thursday (November 23) and runs until December 23.

© 2023 Eve Newstead