When Kimberly Bronson was growing up on a steady bedtime story diet of C.S. Lewis’ much-beloved Chronicles of Narnia and envisioning a dance adaptation of the material, she could never have anticipated the brambly path of legalities that would stand in her way.
I dreamed about it for years and then I finally felt like the time was right, but then I found out that there was already a script for The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe,’ and that legally, copyright-wise, I was not permitted to do it, Bronson said. I was really disappointed, to say the least.
However, much like Aslan, the C.S. Lewis estate works in mysterious ways. In 2008, Bronson, who was a longtime dance instructor fresh off the founding of her own studio – Kinetic Revelation Academy of Dance – got a green light from the publisher to adapt The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe into Doorway to Narnia, a full-scale theatrical production that played at Auer Performance Hall two summers in a row.
This weekend, Kinetic Revelation is disappearing back into the wardrobe with an adaptation of Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which Bronson penned herself in a second collaboration with the C.S. Lewis estate. Featuring 20 dancers ages 9 to adult and a cast of 35 overall, this musical with canned music, as Bronson calls it, is slated to be staged at the Salvation Army’s minimalist theater (perhaps the facility’s best-kept secret). But much like the journey to Doorway to Narnia and the journey of the Pevensies themselves, the road to opening night hasn’t always been smooth sailing.
The truth of the matter is that once something is made into a movie, it’s incredibly difficult to adapt because of the copyright issues, Bronson said. They let me write the script for this, but I would always get it back with, Nope! That’s in the movie.’ As long as I stuck almost verbatim to what the book said, we were in good shape. But I couldn’t do anything that showed up in the movie, basically.
After several rounds of revision, Bronson emerged with a green-lit script and held open auditions, which yielded a cast blended from Kinetic Revelation dancers, Fort Wayne musical theater veterans and big-name local theater professionals such as Jeff Salisbury and Dennis Nichols, who will portray Aslan and Coriakin respectively.
Bronson herself, who spearheaded the production as director and choreographer in addition to scriptwriter, intended to dance in only two numbers, but somehow she’s ended up in five.
I’m dancing more than I want to be, Bronson said, That wasn’t my plan, but it needs to be this way. I enjoy it; it’s just hard to direct and be in the show at the same time.
That the works of C.S. Lewis should become the go-to source material for Kinetic Revelation thus far seems unsurprising; Bronson’s personal attachment aside, the famously uber-Christian writer is a fitting companion for a studio that concludes each class with prayer and cites faith as a key underpinning of its instructional methodology.
There’s such depth and hope in Lewis’ words, Bronson said. Nothing happens accidentally; there’s deeper meaning to everything, and some of the dances that we’re doing are really trying to bring that out.
Even in the darkest stuff that happens within the book, there is always hope and encouragement. They always keep pressing through and going forward, she said.
Luann McConnell, a 9-year-old Doorway to Narnia alum and four-year veteran of the studio, is about to make a turn in Dawn Treader as a Narnian and a townsperson, and she cites this faith-based form of instruction as integral to her dance education.
All of the performances I’ve been in are telling the story of Jesus through dance, McConnell said. I like that. They tell you everything you need to know.
With one childhood goal accomplished, Bronson’s next pipe dream is an adaptation of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, which she envisions as almost impossible due to the same copyright issues that have plagued her for years.
Bronson is also eyeing a fairy tale adaptation, but for the time being, she’s content to stick by Lewis for a potential encore performance next summer, much like Kinetic Revelation did with two summers of Doorway to Narnia.
Once you put something this big with so many facets together, it’s nice to do it a second time, Bronson said. I want to give everyone something to be proud of and another chance to feel that they’ve been a part of something bigger than themselves.