A talented director entertains, a gifted one elevates.
This weekend in a high school theatre that has blown us away more often than we can count, we once again transcended a story we had heard all our lives.
This time Peter Pan and his faithful, naughty sidekick Tinkerbell led us to Neverland, a place at once magical, sinister and real.
Appleton North High School Director Ron Parker challenges his young actors; they spend days researching their characters and discuss staging elements, blocking and script.
This collaboration consistently produces plays both innovative and painstakingly true to their original intent.
Such is the case with the fascinating J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Barrie gave the copyright of Peter Pan to London’s hospital for Sick Children in 1929, confirmed by his will when he died in 1937. This means that for the past 84 years the hospital has received royalties every time anyone, anywhere puts on a production of the play, which includes the sale of Peter Pan books and other products.
Likewise, the cast of Appleton North’s Peter Pan collected money after each show for the Children’s Hospital of the Fox Valley.
The sweet gesture is just one example of how high school theatre can teach students and audience members so much more than elocution and performance techniques.
When everything goes well, everyone — director, actor, crew and audience member, emerges with a clearer understanding of the story, the playwright, the actor and themselves.
Enjoy this clip of the production, put together by former Booster of Lightning Theatre’s Catherine McKenzie.
Here are a couple of post-show freshmen — Molly and Rachel were of the Arawak Tribe and Alex was Nibs, a lost boy.
The Arawak Tribe meets the pirates. In the Appleton North production, both the Indian Tribe and Tinkerbell created their own language.
In this, more sinister version of Peter Pan, the Pirates kill members of the Arawak Tribe. That’s Molly, second Arawak on the left.
Molly and her pirate friend Jack holding collection cups for the Children’s Hospital of the Fox Valley. J.M. Barrie instructed the Hospital for Sick Children never to reveal how much money they have received from his Peter Pan royalties but, as they collect them in perpetuity, it is a significant amount. Due to the generosity of their audience members (and the fact that they sold out the entire run), the Appleton North Peter Pan cast collected a tidy sum as well.
“John” and Molly dump their loot into the cash box.
Captain Hook, Smee and the Storyteller, a character created by adaptors John Caird and Trevor Nunn to bring in the author’s voice. According to their notes, one of Barrie’s most bitter disappointments was the quickly established tradition of having an actress play the part of Peter Pan. Barrie wanted a real little boy to play Peter Pan, but in 1928 in London children were forbidden to work on stage past 9 p.m. In the Appleton North production, Ian Parker played Peter Pan with handsome, ominous perfection .