By Valerie Rushanan
Bedford High School’s Theatre Department presents Peter and the Starcatcher, a play by Rick Elice with music by Wayne Barker, based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. The story is a prequel of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.
The director, Katrina Faulstich, says the students are learning a lot: the whole cast is on stage most of the time, so there aren’t any true lead roles, and the acting has to carry the show with minimal props and sets. It’s “poor-man’s theatre style,” doing a lot with a little, like vaudeville, with Foley sound effects: for example, a percussion instrument makes the sound of knocking on a door, and a violin sounds like a door creaking. The actors also play cats, crocodiles, and birds, and speak in standard British, cockney, and Italian accents. They can also learn about themselves, she says: “How do they relate to these characters that are on the brink of childhood and adulthood?”
Jayden Heller and Eran Zelixon are sophomores, playing pirates named Smee and Black Stache. Jayden likes how Peter and the Starcatcher blurs the line between childhood and adulthood, and furthers the message about avoiding adulthood. Jayden said, “I read the book when I was seven, and saw the show on Broadway when it first came out, so this show has been a favorite of mine for a long time.” The first show he acted in was Peter Pan. He loves comedy, and is Disney-obsessed. This show is complex and simple at the same time, he says.
Eran will indeed have a black mustache for performances. He likes his role because he describes himself as a “flamboyant person,” and the show lets him be childish (as evidenced by his appropriately melodramatic acting). He is delighted to bond more with all the other cast members. Eran always loved music and theatre, and first tried acting in 7th grade, in JGMS’s production of The Wizard of Oz. In Peter and the Starcatcher, he has plenty of opportunities to grow as an actor. For example, the entire cast plays multiple characters, and several actors have to imitate a door or a wall. Sometimes an actor changes a hat, but other times, there are no costume changes, and actors still have to portray a different character, convincingly. He says “This show is funny and clever; I’m inspired to read more Peter Pan stories.”
According to Ms. Faulstich, the play was written for all the actors to be male, except for a female in the role of Molly, played by Charlie Anderson, whose character “is very brave, strong in leadership, and stands up to male authority.” These qualities contrast with the conventions of Victorian England, the play’s setting. Ms. Faulstich cast the best actors for each role, regardless of gender. These themes make BHS’s production fun, and enhance our appreciation of how gender roles have evolved, to include our current culture’s acceptance of a variety of gender identifications.
Natalie Lewis, who you may remember as the fantastic fairy godmother in Cinderella last year, plays Alf, a less macho, but typical sailor who works on the ship, and falls in love with Jared Rushanan’s character, Mrs. Bumbrake. Natalie and Jared are seniors at BHS. They also play pirates, and everyone plays a mermaid. Natalie says “Acting in this show is all about going out of your comfort zone, and I love those challenges.”
Seda Korroch, a junior at BHS, is the stage manager. She’s done acting, worked backstage, made costumes, designed and painted sets, and played in the pit orchestra. She felt right at home backstage, so when technical director Erik Smallenberger encouraged her to try stage management, she knew she’d found her niche. In fact, she plans on it being her major in college. So after discussing her mission for this show with Ms. Faulstich, Seda is doing this job from a very professional perspective. That means some changes from the past few years, including that the set construction is separate; it’s being led by senior Ben Krusemark.
Seda attends every rehearsal, organizes props, and annotates the script with blocking (where the actors are standing or moving to) so she can call cues to the backstage crew, for example: “start lights,” or “open curtain,” using a radio. Seda is happy that this show is “simple enough to learn as you go, so I’ll learn just about everything a stage manager needs to do.” She’s glad to develop good relationships with the cast during rehearsals, so when tech week comes (long rehearsals to work out lighting, curtains, etc.), they will all be relaxed.
The audience will love seeing familiar characters in a really funny, new story. It is well-suited to elementary-aged kids through adults, who will remember what it’s like to make believe, and grin at double entendres and anachronisms. Ms. Faulstich loves the “mix of laugh-out-loud funny and heartfelt drama” of this play. Onstage storytellers will also be featured in this winter’s BHS musical, Children of Eden.
Deborah Weidman and John Coyne, seniors at BHS, are the assistant director and a technical team lead. The cast also includes Caitlin Dooks, Kirsten Henry, Tyler Jones, Tracie Lewis, Eleanor Lowen, Neil Luczai, Isabella Panagiotou, Justin Paxton, Leah Paxton, Sam Rackey, Joleen Ricci, Parker Taggard, and Nick Wilson. Betsy Goetschius is once again the costume designer (yes, the genius who designed Cinderella’s costume). Student musicians Matt Clement, Aaron Hamilton, Emi McSwain, and Fionna Zhang accompany the actors with music and Foley sound effects.
Performances are November 18th and 19th at 7:30pm and November 20th at 3pm in the BHS Auditorium. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors and can be purchased in advance at www.BhsChorusandTheater.weebly.com or at the door. All performances use assigned seating.