The Real Magic Behind ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’
Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s production of Peter and the Starcatcher is full of starstuff, pixie dust, and about a hundred other wonderful things. But what gives the play its true magic is the spirit of imagination it invokes in its audience.
The following is an excerpt from an interview with Peter and the Starcatcher playwright Rick Elice about the theater style he used to create a magical world for both children and adults:
“When I came on board as playwright, [directors] Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, and Disney’s brilliant dramaturg, Ken Cerniglia, had already hit on a great organizing principle. Act One would take place on board two ships at sea—all cramped quarters, tiny cabins, claustrophobic, dark, wet, sinister. Act Two would take place on a tropical island, with bright sky and big, open spaces. In order to create a simple, stark environment in which to tell a young person’s story in an adult, muscular and surprising way, the directors embraced the style of Story Theater, or Poor Theater—a favorite technique of Alex’s and the trademark of Roger’s great Royal Shakespeare Company triumph, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby.
The dozen actors would play everyone and everything— sailors, pirates, orphans, natives, fish, mermaids, birds … even doors, passageways, masts, storms, jungles. They would also narrate action and memory, giving each of them a privileged relationship with the audience. This would encourage the audience to be more than spectators; it would invite them to play along, to participate, to imagine … I aimed to write a play seasoned with the contemporary, irreverent tone of Dave and Ridley’s Peter and the Starcatchers and the stylistic flourishes employed by J. M. Barrie a hundred years earlier for the original Peter Pan— high comedy and low, alliteration, puns, broad physical gags, songs, meta-theatrical anachronisms, sentiment delivered so deftly that the end of the play breaks your heart.
My challenge would be to write this new play in such a way that it merged the two disparate styles … The marriage of classic and modern in the writing brings the Story Theater aspect of the play into sharper focus. And the Story Theater style gave me the freedom to create a vast landscape of far-flung places, physical and emotional. And the wings to take you there.” – Rick Elice, 2014
To read the complete synopsis (with spoilers) of Peter and the Starcatcher, please click here.
Photos by Tony Firriolo features Stephen James Anthony, James Putnam, Kenny Babel, and the cast.