Peter and the Starcatcher runs six nights a week from January 17, 2020 thru February 15, 2020 at Centerpoint Legacy Theatre in Centerville. Promotional photo Credits: Pepperfox Photo, Facebook: Pepperfox Photo, Instagram: @pepperfoxphoto
The last few months I’ve been directing Peter and the Starcatcher by Rick Elice for Centerpoint Legacy Theatre. Every piece of theatre has the potential to be its own magical process, but Peter has been special for me. The script brings forward many of my most favorite things about theatre as an art form.
It’s not a musical. It’s a play with an essential soundscape that among its auditory tools employs, at times, the use of music from both instruments and voices. It also utilizes a set in addition to other theatrical resources to indicate place. There are props, costumes, and lighting instruments and designs as you would expect from any play. But Peter and the Starcatcher is not just any play, and doesn’t avail itself of these technical elements to the extent that many plays do. The primary tools this show uses to tell its story are the imaginations of the performers and audience.
That means that for an older audience, or an audience unacquainted with theatrical conventions, this play can be a revelation, or a frustration. What follows is a spoiler-free primer, hopefully preparing you to enjoy all the surprises this show has to offer.
Ensemble Cast in Multiple Settings
The script calls for twelve actors, eleven male and one female, but our production has expanded to fourteen performers, two female. Everyone in the cast, except the actress who plays Molly, will perform more than one character during the show, and even Molly will at times portray wind or water, or voice animal sounds. No real attempt is made to disguise the actor, you are supposed to recognize individual performers in their different roles. However, each character will be made distinguishable through indicative costuming.
Props and Costumes as Accessories
The costuming pieces that indicate character are often accessories, so actors can switch roles rapidly without leaving the stage. They are selected to be iconic and unique to help you avoid confusion.
This show has a lot of props, but not every item is physically represented. We leave you space to use your imagination. Items that are not physically represented are described in the script as part of the dialogue, so it won’t be a game of charades where the performer pantomimes and you have to guess.
Some of the sound effects of the show happen live on stage as performed by actor’s voices, bodies or musical instruments. If you see an actor holding a prop and you’re wondering how that musical instrument got on that merchant ship, it’s probably responsible for the sound of the squeaking door you keep hearing when an actor mimes opening a door that isn’t physically represented with a set piece.
Multiple Settings with Simultaneous Staging and Moveable Parts
So, why isn’t there a set piece for the door? Peter and the Starcatcher moves quickly between a large variety of settings. The set needs to accommodate that flexibility as fast as possible while still giving you a clear sense of where the action is taking place. We will use flags, the dialogue, lighting, moveable and reusable set pieces and props to help you understand which ship you are seeing and in what part of the ship the characters are talking. If you get a little lost for a moment, hang in there. The dialogue has a way of helping you out even if the location isn’t formally announced at the onset of a scene.
Prologue, Period and Narration
Speaking of formal announcements, every actor on the stage will at some point address the audience directly as a narrator. Multiple actors may combine to narrate the same moment. There is a special section at the top of the show called the Prologue. It happens outside of the story, outside of Victorian England. It helps establish some of the themes and motifs of the story, and the theatrical conventions of narration and ensemble. Even after the story begins, the script keeps the awareness that this play isn’t coming to you directly from it’s time period and place. Occasional jokes, references and idioms will pop up throughout the show that are more modern. We’ve embraced that element of the script and you’ll see it reflected in the costuming–some of the design choices there are more modern too.
Molly Aster is a 13-year-old girl who helps her father, Lord Aster, in his work as one of only six Starcatchers in the whole world. Lord Aster works under the direction of Queen Victoria, God save her, to keep the starstuff that falls to the earth from the heavens out of the hands of bad people. Starstuff makes you who you want to be and is very powerful magic. The mission the Asters are on, to destroy the starstuff, is all very secret, but a merchant named Slank, is trying to get his hands on the starstuff to sell it for money. He’s also receiving side income as a child-trafficker, selling orphans to an evil King of an exotic place called Rundoon. Slank’s ship is called “The Neverland.” Molly has to ride on that ship because it’s taking the slower, safer route. Her Father is going to sail with the starstuff on her Majesty’s vessel “The Wasp,” with his friend, the Captain, and historical figure fictionalized, Sir Robert Falcon Scott. To get his hands on the starstuff, Slank fills an identical trunk full of sand and gets the sand loaded on The Wasp and the starstuff loaded on his vessel, The Neverland. There’s going to be pirates, a storm, an island, and an indigenous tribe, as well as a few other surprises, but if you can follow the exposition I’ve mentioned here, the rest will work out for you.
Peter and the Starcatcher is suitable for children and adults alike. The show, at its core, considers childhood, adulthood and what it means to grow up. It is funny, thoughtful, surprising and nostalgic.
I’ve enjoyed my time starcatching, capturing dazzling moments in the rehearsal process. We’ve used our own kind of starstuff, the talents and time of a phenomenal cast, team and crew, to make this show what we want it to be. And I’m delighted to share it with you.