Fall Play Review: Peter and the Starcatcher
During the first weekend in November, much of the Packer student body will take their seats in the Pratt theatre to watch their talented classmates and friends perform in the Upper School fall play: Peter and the Starcatcher.
This play, which premiered first in California and then Off-Broadway in 2011, is a prequel to the classic story of Peter Pan. The original tale follows the three Darling children, who run off with the magical Peter Pan to Neverland–a place where kids never grow up. This production is a prequel to that original story, providing backstory for the beloved characters Peter Pan centers around as well as the devious Captain Hook and other inhabitants of Neverland.
As Peter Pan was written over a century before Peter and the Starcatcher, the more controversial aspects of the original story–such as the portrayal of Tiger Lily and her indiginous tribe–have been adapted for a contemporary and less racially insensitive audience. However, the deeper themes of friendship, bravery, and the pains of growing older remain in this extension of the original tale.
Ali Boag, head of Packer’s arts department and director of the fall play, said that he chose Peter and the Starcatcher for its comically playful spirit: “I thought it would be nice to do something that is really lighthearted. It has serious things to say, but essentially it’s fantasy and it’s funny. I wanted to do a straightforward comedy because I think we all need that…there’s enough to be serious about right now.”
Additionally, Mr. Boag cited the large cast size as a reason he chose to put on the production this year. The play has seventeen feature roles along with an ensemble cast of pirates, sailors, mermaids, and mollusks. This extensive list has allowed for thirty-one Packer students to participate on stage, along with many more tasked with crucial behind the scenes work.
The production of Peter and the Starcatcher will feature some new talent in Packer’s drama program. Anna Simmons (‘20), landed one of the lead characters, Molly, although it is her first time being involved with the Packer drama program. As a senior, Anna had concerns going into auditions and rehearsals about whether she would be accepted into this space so late in the game.
She said, “I thought people who had been doing this their whole lives were gonna judge me. But I came in and everyone was so happy for me and were telling me that they were so happy I was here and doing this. I could not have been more included in this community that I had not been a part of before.”
Warm inclusivity along with pushing students to reach out of their comfort zones, seem to be consistent themes with the Packer drama department, and specifically with this show. Nola Sloan (‘21)–who has acted in previous Packer shows–will also be taking on a new role this year, as stage manager for the production. As stage manager, Nola sits in on rehearsals, records blocking, and helps Mr. Boag with the more logistical aspects of putting on a show.
Additionally, Nola played an integral part in the casting process for Peter and the Starcatcher which is uncommon for a student to do. Nola put her voice in this space to good use, ensuring that the cast was picked based on their merit, not preconceived notions of how a character should look and act.
She said, “I was conscious of how things are normally cast especially in schools and especially at Packer. I wanted to go mostly off of the actor’s audition rather than saying ‘oh well in everyone’s heads this person should get this role because of how they look.”
Nola’s ideas seem to have been effective in the casting process, as many Packer females were cast in lead male roles. Gender bending characters in this way allowed more girls to participate in the production (as many of the main parts are men) and will allow all to shine in the roles that best fit their acting capabilities. Nola also mentioned that her conscientiousness expanded beyond the realm of gender. She also made sure that those who were deciding the roles weren’t typecasting people of color.
Packer’s Peter and the Starcatcher is shaping up to be a tremendous exhibition of the amazing actors in our community. The diversity of the cast in terms of experience, race, and gender, along with their inclusive spirit, should be looked at as a prime example of what Packer students can do when their identifiers aren’t inhibiting them.
To quote Mr. Boag, Peter and the Star Catcher is “funny, clever, and it’s got mermaids.”
Evidently, this is a Packer production you won’t want to miss.