Yellow Springs High School

YSHS actors to soar in ‘Peter Pan’

Backed by a full musical ensemble of community members, the Yellow Springs High School Drama Club, Thespian Troupe #4671 and the YSHS Theatre Arts Association will present Peter Pan in the Mills Lawn auditorium April 24, 25, 26 and May 1, 2, 3.

It’s a “new spin on a very traditional tale,” director Kelly Pekar said of the production. “We’ve tried to pull out some of the deeper meanings…about how time changes people.”

Dressed in colorful garb that was clearly marauded on the high seas, a handful of pirates gathered with Captain Hook and Peter Pan to discuss the lighter side of this year’s musical.

“Being a pirate is something I try to do as often as possible,” said pirate Miranda Russell. Pirates bring people closer to their primal instincts and shared humanity, she said, because they “growl a lot, which is something I think people wish they could do.”

“Audiences find pirates endearing because they can connect with them on a very primal level,” added Elliot Cromer, playing Captain Hook. For Cromer, the fun is in playing different roles with real-world friends, including Adam Zaremsky — who plays Smee, Hook’s endearingly pathetic pirate underling in J.M. Barrie’s classic tale, which first debuted on the stage in 1904.

The story enables “emotional connections” between the characters and the audience, said pirate Colton Pitstick, partly because the debauchery and “shenanigans” pirates are so well known for hold an iconic place in human tales.

The trick is to weave the scenes together “so they connect and flow,” pirate Max Fleishman said, so the play becomes a “tangible thing” for the audience. Fleishman said the Yellow Springs audience is a blast to perform for because people always appreciate their productions.

Between the cast, technical crew and pit orchestra, a total of 50 high school students are part of this year’s musical. Add to that the numerous volunteer musicians from the community playing in the pit orchestra, and the audience has what Music Director John Faas calls a remarkable opportunity.

“If this were a regional road tour of Peter Pan, there would be two keyboards and a drummer,” Faas said. “The fact that we have a violin section and a cello section and a reed section is amazing. The audience gets to hear what these orchestrations were written to sound like.”

Many of the students have been in six to eight theatrical productions, beginning with time spent in the YS Kids Playhouse. The level of theatrical experience many YSHS students have is clear when working with the cast, said Assistant Director Shawn Storms. “They have a leg up,” she said, and they are “extremely committed to getting things done.”

“There’s a lot of talent here,” Stage Manager Jess Shake said. The experience many have allows the organizers to “push the cast to push themselves to come up with new ideas.”

Cast members said the large stage gives them freedom to create scenes that would not be possible on a smaller stage. This production will include an expanded stage area in addition to the raised stage.

The difference between the Darling nursery — the home of Wendy, Michael and John — and Neverland — the fantastical realm of Peter Pan — is something that Pekar has strived to create in setting the overall theme for the production.

Having also directed the fall play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Pekar is back to direct her second YSHS production and said she is again “just amazed at how much support there is from the community.”

With four hours of time invested per costume, co-costumer Ali Thomas finds this production easier to outfit than many others, largely because few cast members are double-casted, requiring two or more costumes each.

“Outfitting the pirates was fun beyond words. Outfitting the Indians was fun beyond words.” She felt “a little lost” outfitting the lost boys, Thomas said, and Peter Pan presented a real stumbling block. “I didn’t want it to be the traditional Disney Peter Pan.”

Thomas has tried to put herself into the minds of the characters, so audience members might find pirates wearing three scavenged belts and a host of other oddities that, she feels, pirates would consider “good scores.” Still, Thomas said the real treat might be in the animal costumes made by Judy Parker.

Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for students and seniors. Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 p.m., Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. The box office opens at Mills Lawn 1 hours before show time, and there are no advanced ticket sales.

A pre-show Curtain Warmer with appetizers and sparkling wine will be held on Saturday, April, 25, at 6:30 p.m. at the Arthur Morgan House. Tickets are $25. Call 767-7766.

Contact: bbryan {at} ysnews(.)com

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