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‘Prince Caspian’ Onstage Brings Aslan on the Move to America’s Capital

The Logos Theatre plans faithful adaptations of all seven Chronicles of Narnia for excellent live performances.
on Apr 18, 2024 · 1 comment

For decades children have searched for Narnia in the backs of wardrobes. But now fans of all ages can rediscover C. S. Lewis’s magical land thanks to the Academy of Arts drama team’s stage plays featuring epic performances and massive puppets.

This spring, Lewis’s heroes arrived onstage for Prince Caspian at Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. Based on the second Narnian story, the Pevensie children are called back to their old kingdom to join Aslan’s resistance in The Logos Theatre’s gripping adaptation. It’s playing live at the museum through April 27, 2024.

Because the museum practically exists in my backyard, I got to see the performance firsthand. Caspian is my second time seeing the Logos Theatre in action, having seen The Horse and His Boy last spring. I was so enraptured with the quality of the performance and mastery of the large-scale puppets that I bought myself a backstage pass to learn more about the magic behind the scenes.1

Logos is part of The Academy of Arts, a drama school and ministry based in South Carolina. They’ve brought Lewis’s stories to life onstage for the last decade, starting with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in 2014 at their own auditorium in Taylors, SC. Since then, Logos Theatre has adapted Prince Caspian and The Horse and His Boy, and is now developing The Silver Chair.2. They’ve performed at Museum of the Bible as well as Ark Encounter in Kentucky, onstage in Branson, Missouri, and across the world.

“We’ve taken The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to Scotland … which right now in the Christian world is unheard of,” said Logos writer/director Nicole Stratton in a 2023 Q&A session for The Horse and His Boy. “Only Broadway travels with shows of this magnitude.”

The challenges of adapting Prince Caspian

In an age when once-devoted fans feel burned out by faithless reboots of beloved franchises, Narnia fans are right to wonder if Logos bears their stories well. But who better to give his full support other than Lewis’s own stepson, Douglas Gresham? In a pre-recorded backstage video, Gresham said the Logos Theatre’s Prince Caspian is better than the 2008 Disney/Walden film.

“I think you’re going to leave this theater absolutely thrilled with the fact that you came to see this play,” he promised attendees.

The video showed Gresham walking the South Carolina stage, marveling at the team’s creativity in bringing the magic of his stepfather’s imaginations come to life.

“I can’t wait to get back, to be honest,” he said with a chuckle.

Gresham added that the play “has some special effects on stage which a lot of people may say are impossible, and yet they’re here, and they work, and they work very well.” He guaranteed guests a wonderful evening of excitement, drama, and emotion, “because that’s the nature of my stepfather’s book, Prince Caspian.”

The Academy of Arts stays grounded in biblical principles, and showrunners boldly proclaim the gospel in Narnia performances.3 Like the books, these plays keep Christ veiled behind the powerful image of Aslan, but notable lines in this year’s Prince Caspian left attendees in tears. It was no accident that at one moment, Caspian’s nurse made direct eye contact with the audience to declare, “Aslan is very much alive!”

Lucy reunites with Aslan during a vision of Narnia’s trees awakened in The Logos Theatre’s Prince Caspian. (courtesy The Logos Theatre)

How Logos performers show Aslan on the move

But how does The Logos Theatre bring an impossibly large lion to life on a stage in Washington, DC? That’s where puppet master Justin Swain works his magic. Swain is the technological genius behind multiple large-scale puppets, including horses Bree and Hwin in The Horse and His Boy, massive walking trees and the Bulgy Bear in Caspian, and Giant Despair for an upcoming DC tour of Pilgrim’s Progress.

Operators built Aslan over nine months. The lion’s skeleton frame consists of lightweight aluminum with a body of sculpted EVA foam. Aslan’s massive head was carved in three separate parts from Styrofoam blocks. The creature then underwent a process called vacuum-forming.

“Think of an air hockey table, but instead of blowing air through the holes, it sucks air down through the holes,” Swain told Caspian backstage guests. “We take big sheets of plastic and we heat them up in an oven until they’re malleable. We put them on top of the table and it sucks down, and whatever’s on that table, that plastic will take that shape.”

Three puppeteers operate Aslan—one head, one heart, and one hind—working in perfect harmony, similar to the three persons of the Trinity, according to Swain.

“We really do take Aslan very seriously,” he said.

Designers added scars to Aslan’s feet and side to reflect Christ’s wounds. “It’s a great reminder of who he is and what he represents,” Swain added.

The lion is voiced by the late Dr. Nicky Chavers, who founded the Academy of Arts in 1971. At last year’s Q&A, executive director Noah Stratton explained that his wife Nicole (Chavers’s daughter) had the foresight to record all of Aslan’s lines for each Narnia book. “We’ll have [Dr. Chavers’s] voice acting with us through all seven stories,” he said, expressing a hope to eventually adapt the entire series.

Aslan and the rest of the puppet cast are only one feature of Caspian’s show-stopping ingenuity. Live onstage, a twenty-foot river god decimates Beruna’s Bridge. A fleeing Caspian rides past speeding trees. Magical creatures shape the very rocks and hills of Narnia. Invisible magic violently throws the Pevensies across the stage as swirling brick arches form a portal to Narnia, a choreographed sequence that stole my breath away.

Between the stunning effects, a masterful cast, and musical scores that seem to give homage to Harry Gregson-Williams, even the seasoned actors had trouble restraining their emotions during the performance I attended. During the final act, Peter Pevensie actor Harrison Winkley was choking back tears with all the rest of us.

When my brothers left the theater with me, they insisted, “That’s how real men cry.”

The Pevensie children are magically whisked back into Narnia from a London train station in The Logos Theatre’s Prince Caspian. (courtesy The Logos Theatre). (courtesy The Logos Theatre)

Acting as kings and queens of Narnia

Most of the cast and crew are not new to the Narnia family nor the Logos Theatre.

For example, fourteen-year-old Brinton Stratton (King Edmund in Caspian) has performed the role of Shasta in The Horse and His Boy over 100 times and has appeared in other dramas since he was a child. Samuel Singleton, who plays Prince Caspian, said his acting career is a direct result of the Academy’s ministry.

“My sister started [participating in the Academy’s drama seminars] when she was young, and then I did my first one when I was six,” Singleton told me in a quick interview. “I grew up doing different seminars and plays with them until I became college-aged, and then I went to their Conservatory.”

Singleton then joined one of the Academy’s summer teams and met his future wife, Olivia. Once an onstage king of Narnia, always an onstage king.

Logos is going further up and further in

Beyond Narnia, the Academy of Arts offers Christian grade school classes, summer camps, and week-long drama seminars intended to equip the next generation of Christian performers and dramatic artists. I first encountered the Academy of Arts at one of these drama seminars, when Noah Stratton directed my own high school’s performance of Paul the Apostle in 2014.

“[The Academy of Arts] is about developing communicators who are submitted fully to the truth and are servant-hearted in getting the truth out to others,” said Abigail Pierce, puppet voice operator for Prince Caspian.

Although the DC Prince Caspian performances will conclude with a final showing on April 27, 2024, Aslan is always on the move. Logos Theatre is still developing The Silver Chair and hopes to bring The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on tour. Until then, the Academy will return to DC with Pilgrims Progress in August. They will follow this with Robin Hood (Oct.–Nov. 2024), The Cross and the Switchblade (March 2025) and The Secret Garden (April 2025) at their South Carolina home.

As executive director Noah Stratton recalled, Jesus used stories in His preaching. That’s why the Academy shares biblical truths through the power of fantastical stories. “Our motto is ‘Making the Bible come alive through the power of storytelling,’” he said. “We’re trying to do it in God’s way and how He did it: getting the right messages out in very creative and exciting ways.”

  1. Due to digital copyrights, Logos can’t stream the show or sell copies, but you can watch the trailer for Prince Caspian along with dozens of behind the scenes videos.
  2. The Silver Chair was slated for completion before the 2020–2021 season. But according to an official YouTube comment under the promo trailer, COVID lockdowns delayed the production. In my own playbill for Prince Caspian, however, The Silver Chair is named as Logos Theatre’s next Narnia project
  3. The Academy’s website features an extensive doctrinal statement.
Graphic designer Jenneth Dyck is a dyslexic writer and illustrator who creates professional book covers for indie authors and small press publishers. She also thinks way too deeply about superhero movies, quantum physics, angels, and the fourth dimension. She holds degrees in professional writing and digital media with an M.A. in graphic design.
  1. Glenn Hibburt says:

    It’s really tough knowing that living in New Zealand means I’m missing out on Logos Theatre’s incredible ‘Prince Caspian’ performance. (Sigh) Oh, how I’d love to fly to America and bask in the glory of this amazing performance. I have seen the trailer and want to cry—heartsick over the reality that I’ll never have the opportunity to see it! Note that here in Christchurch, theatres on NZ’s South Island, family-friendly stage performances are little more than pantomimes, which are fun but lack the grandeur and substance of Logos Theatre’s Narnia presentations and others.

    I’m thankful that such wonderful productions exist somewhere in the world, though I dream of seeing or even creating something with substance here. I once pitched a play titled “The Humblest Little Thing – A Knicknack Kingdom Khronicle” to Christchurch Court Theatre, laden with allegorical biblical themes. No word back yet—I wonder if it was a bit too on the nose?

    I’m tempted to pray that the theatre’s artistic directors might miss the allegory long enough to stage it, then have a revelation afterward—(nervous chuckle). Is it wrong to wish for that?

    I wonder if Logos Theatre accepts submissions from international playwrights. “The Humblest Little Thing” might be right up their alley, blending well with their ethos and style. Here’s to hoping, and more so, here’s to praying that opportunities for such enriching performances open up closer to home, or that one day, I might manage to see them performed live on stage here and in the US! I want to cross my fingers, but that would be faithless, right? No, I must seek God’s will in the matter. ‘Pluck’ not ‘Luck’ 😊

What say you?