Taking the long view, Audrey Ney no doubt saw it coming. In many ways, the recent musical theater graduate (LIU Post ’17, BFA) has been preparing for her breakthrough role in “Lewis & Tolkien: Of Wardrobes and Rings”—now running Off Broadway at The Black Box Theater through June 14—since she was a little girl growing up in Nashville, Tenn. That’s when she surprised her mother by memorizing C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” and performing the classic children’s fantasy tale to her heart’s content—and her mother’s consternation.
“My mother finally said, ‘Oh, my gosh, you better start performing this for other people!’ ” recalled Audrey with a laugh.
Another moment in this narrative arc came in her fifth grade talent show when Audrey enacted the key moment in the book when Lucy—the youngest of the four intrepid Pevensie children—goes through the magical wardrobe and meets Tumnus, a mischievous faun, in the wintry woods of Narnia who, after some persuasion, decides not to take her to the wicked queen but instead to make her a cup of tea at his cozy home. Showing her theatrical versatility even then, Audrey played Lucy, Tumnus and the Narrator.
And so here she is on stage in the Rising Image production written by David Payne and directed by Marc Whitmore at the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture on 18 Bleecker Street. Playing an American barmaid named Hattie, Audrey says she’s “a bright light” in the Rabbit Room at The Eagle and Child pub in Oxford, England, where C.S. Lewis (David Payne) and J.R.R. Tolkien (Gordon Tett) had once been just two members of the Inklings writers’ club. Now, many years later, they return as two towering figures of 20th century English literature who’d had a serious falling out after Narnia rubbed up against Middle Earth.
“They disagreed on a lot of things but they still had a very deep friendship,” Audrey explains. “I think it’s a really important play today because so many friendships are breaking up because people aren’t really listening to each other.”
Audrey credits her LIU theater professors, Maria Porter, David Hugo and John Frazier, to name a few mentors, for helping her grow as an artist.
Thanks to Post Theater Company, she’s performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland in 2014 and at The World Congress hosted by the International University Theater Association in Manizales, Columbia, in 2016. Now with Rising Image as both the Tour Manager and “Hattie,” she’s helped bring this two-act play across the country and to the UK. When this show’s run is over, Audrey plans to head to Chicago, which has a very lively theater scene.
“LIU was amazing for me,” Audrey said. “Post Theater Company literally took me around the world and taught me that I can be a theatre artist (actor, writer, director, designer, etc.) and I do not have to box myself in or be defined as only one thing in order to be a part of creating something spectacular.”
For tickets to “Lewis & Tolkien: Of Wardrobes and Rings,” contact The Sheen Center at www.SheenCenter.org or by phone at 212-925-2812.