“Narnia” director Brian Walsh. His thoughts on preparing for an unforgettable show.

I feel it is important to teach kids that good will always prevail, and that there’s always a purpose to what we do, especially when what we do is right and just.”

– “Narnia” Director, Brian Walsh

LSY: How long have you been a part of Upper Summer Stage?
Brian Walsh: I’ve been a part of Summer Stage since 1998. I was 15 years old. I started Summer Stage a little later than usual; I started in Children’s Theater. I was a freshman here at Upper Darby High School and I loved to do theater so I decided to do Summer Stage and that first year I did two shows, Dr. Doolittle and The Velveteen Rabbit.

How do compare being a participant to being on staff at Summer Stage?
On this side I definitely notice that it’s much harder than it looked. When I was a kid, it seemed very easy even though we thought what we did was difficult.

When you’re on this side as a staff member, you realize that we analyze the script, we go over what we need to do, we have meetings with the designers, we create rehearsal schedules, we record blocking, we create ideas with the choreographer to create the movement of the piece – there’s a lot of preparation work that the kids aren’t aware of. There’s a great deal involved in the process. I think most of the kids don’t realize what is involved and as a kid, I thought that way myself.

Brian, along with choreographer Abby Shunskis, encourage cast member Robbie Cromie

After you read a script, how do you make it come to life on the stage?
When I first read a script I definitely read the notes, the stage directions, and then I’ll think, “Ok that will work,” and then for another section of the script I’ll think “How can I make that different?”  Working with Abby, the choreographer, she definitely has that fun, image kind of stuff that goes on. We work really well together. She’ll say “how about this?” She suggested that a group of Narnians come out in a dream sequence reflecting what Narnia was like before.  I said to her “that’s a great idea!”

When you get a group of heads together in one room and try to build something I think that’s the best thing. It’s not just the director’s vision. It’s everyone’s vision. I love collaborating with people. I love when we can build it together instead of having one person do it…it’s all about collaboration. And we have an incredible team with Ed Pierson the music director who is a fabulous musician and a great vocal teacher. And Abby’s just an amazing choreographer. And Allie is awesome with her stage management skills.

What do you think the kids in the cast are getting out of the experience?
I’m all about having fun. If they’re not having fun and they don’t feel like they’re part of something special, then I feel that I’ve failed as a director. I’m all about being a community and everyone is important in the production. You might be there in the corner in one section, but I move you around so that you’re seen and you feel that you’re not just a person in the background. I’ve been one of those people in the background. And I feel that everyone is part of our show no matter if you have no lines or fifty lines. You’re together as a group and we’re doing this to have fun.

I especially love the fact that teen actors are performing for children. I try to stress that a lot. I tell them, “You’re doing a great job and you’re doing it for yourself, but remember there are kids out in the audience. This is maybe their first time seeing Narnia. They haven’t been introduced yet to the Narnia books yet in elementary school. So this is your first chance to show the kids out in the audience that it’s fun to be magical and mystical, and to be in a different type of world.”

And I want them to think about the message of the show. Unfortunately we’re living in a time when war is prevalent in our lives. In this show there is a war between good and evil. The message is important and it’s relevant and it’s not dated. This story will go on for a while, as long as there is war which, sad to say, will continue to happen for a very long time. Especially in a time when war is prevalent I feel it is important to teach kids that good will always prevail and that there’s always a purpose to what we do, especially when what we do is right and just.

How do you think C.S. Lewis would enjoy the production?
Before I started directing the show, I read C.S. Lewis’s book, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Most of his story is intact in this show especially the most poignant parts. I think he’d really enjoy it!

The music is gorgeous and the kids are working very hard. The costumes are looking great, they’re very 1950s and they’re going to look awesome.

We are blessed to have a great staff and an amazing tech crew and costume crew. It’s a testament to them that they make us look really good! We give the kids the extra tools to shine and if we took the extras away they’d still have an amazing show, but to have all the technical expertise on top of all that, it just makes the performance.

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