Home-schoolers perform C.S. Lewis’ classic Narnia tale

| December 10, 2018 | 0 Comments

Home-school students perform a dress rehearsal of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” DAVE HRBACEK | THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT

The Christmas season began in May for Karen and Tracy Sattler of All Saints in northeast Minneapolis.

It had nothing to do with shopping or party planning. They were working to select a play for their high school drama group to perform during Advent. The husband and wife team, directors of Spotlight Family Theater, wanted to choose something Christmas related for their annual December shows, which take place at Holy Family Academy in St. Louis Park. Two shows remain: 7 p.m. Dec. 14 and 15 at Holy Family Academy in St. Louis Park.

They picked “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia novel series. Four performances are taking place through Dec. 15, featuring 20 high school actors, including three of the couple’s seven children — Leah, 17, Elijah, 12, and Levi, 10. All 20 are home-schooled and belong to a St. Louis Park-based home-school cooperative called Holy Family Home Educators.

The Sattlers look forward to the play every year, and say it is a good bonding experience for their family. All of their children have participated since the theater group started in 2005.

“So many great family memories have come from doing shows over the years,” said Karen, 53. “It’s a great, great thing. I absolutely love it.”

The theater group did spring performances early on, then switched to December shows four years ago. At that time, a decision also was made to cast just high school students. Performances in recent years include “A Christmas Carol” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

The Sattlers have enjoyed not only being together as a family, but spending two-and-a-half to three months together with the other children and families. Karen noted that all of the parents get involved, too, which creates a family atmosphere by the time the curtain closes after the final performance.

“We spend three or four nights a week together for three hours each time, and after the last performance we’re all in tears,” she said. “We see what it means to create, and then it’s gone; it’s gone forever except in our memories. And, we’ll all be able to do it again in heaven.”

Some of the high school students like it so much they keep coming back. Senior Ketura Bremseth of St. Anne in Hamel took on her most challenging role this year, when she accepted the part of the White Witch. The character’s nasty demeanor doesn’t come naturally to her, but she was eager to learn how to portray evil on the stage.

“It’s taken a lot of practice,” said Bremseth, 17, the second-youngest of six children in the family, all of whom have performed in Spotlight Family Theater. “My past roles haven’t really been this evil, so this has been a new challenge for me.”

Bremseth has been doing plays for this organization since ninth grade, but started performing when she was 4. She has a younger sister in the play with her this year, Abigail, 16, who plays one of the two narrators. Her character is Susan, one of the four children who go through the wardrobe door and into Narnia, where they encounter both the White Witch and Aslan, a lion who tries to rescue the inhabitants of the land who have been experiencing perpetual winter until he comes. The story has parallels to the Christmas story, which is why the Sattlers picked it.

Four years ago, Spotlight Family Theater narrowed its casting to high school-age home-schoolers. Before that, younger children could participate. One of them was Caleb Rome, a senior who started when he was 10 and plays Peter in this year’s play, the oldest of the four children who go through the wardrobe. He hopes to continue acting in college next year.

“I want to do at least a minor in theater,” said Rome, 18. “It’s just something I really enjoy. … There’s such a unique feeling when you’re on stage performing for people. It’s unexplainable. It’s just the joy of being able to go into a different world and then entertain people at the same time. There’s really no feeling like it in the world.”

That experience is enhanced by audience reaction, which has been enjoyable for Leah Sattler, who did her first performance in 2006 and has been involved the last four years. She portrays Susan in the play, the one who is in the scenes versus the narrator played by Abigail Bremseth.

“Performing is just such a fun feeling,” she said. “When you’re all finished, you see these little kids with huge smiles on their faces, or these people with tears in their eyes who are just so touched by it.”

She likes using the play to help audience members get into the Christmas spirit. However, entering into Advent is harder to do in the Sattler household, when the play fills so many hours from October through mid December.

“I’m never on time with Christmas gifts,” Tracy joked. There also are plenty of nights during play season when the Sattlers eat pizza and jump right into play preparations. But, there are no regrets — only cherished memories.

“It’s been wonderful,” said Tracy, also 53. “We have this family bond. Now when we get together, we talk about the plays. … It’s just the play season for us.”

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