Spectrum keeps it playful but powerful with ‘Peter Pan’


Source: Alex Wolfe

“Peter Pan” held rehearsals on the Lakefill earlier this month. The show will be performed May 22 at 10 p.m. and May 23 and 24 at both 8 and 11 p.m.

Devan Coggan, Current Editor

Just this year, Spectrum Theatre Company has tackled heavy topics from government conspiracies to atomic bombs. This weekend, however, the student theater board will end its 2013-14 season with a playful production of “Peter Pan.”

Directed by Communication juniors Collin Quinn Rice and Maia Safani, “Peter Pan” is the spring main stage production by Spectrum, a student theater board that addresses social and political issues through its productions.  

“Our overall mission is to produce socially charged and aware pieces of theater, and when we were discussing ‘Peter Pan,’ we talked a lot about the pressures of growing up and what that means,” said producer Alex Wolfe.

Though the childlike qualities of “Peter Pan” may not immediately bring to mind heavy social and political topics, the directors say the theme of growing up is just as powerful as it was when the play was first staged more than 100 years ago.

“There’s a reason that this story is told so often, and it’s because it has such an effect on each of us, and we can all relate to it,” Safani said. “More than being intimidated, I think we were really excited by the idea that this was something that could bring people together, and especially at a time of year where we’ve been going through the whole year and everyone’s stressed out. We want to have a moment where we can all just take a breath, come together, have fun and kind of check our worries outside for a little bit.”

Even though “Peter Pan” is traditionally told as a children’s story, Wolfe emphasized the timelessness of the plot.

“It’s not necessarily a niche group of people that would want to see this show,” the Communication sophomore said. “Rather, it’s something that everyone would be interested in because of the story and that nostalgic feel, that connection to childhood and that seed that’s been planted in everyone from so long ago that they can kind of reconnect with.”

In fact, the directors say the play’s themes of growing up make it perfectly suited for a college audience.

“Something we were really interested in with ‘Peter Pan’ was that we’re all going through this phase in our lives where we’re growing up,” Safani said. “As college students we’re grappling with what that means, what responsibilities we need to take on that perhaps we weren’t prepared for.”

Although J.M. Barrie’s original story has been adapted countless times, the most famous being the 1953 Disney film, Spectrum’s production goes back to basics — with a few twists.

“We focused very hard on staying true to J.M. Barrie’s script, but it’s in the ways that we’re presenting it that are kind of off the cuff,” Rice said.

Much of the production’s style is based in found objects, further emphasizing the show’s childlike themes. From shadow puppetry to chandeliers hung from the ceiling of the Louis Room at Norris University Center, the directors set out to create what Safani calls a “sense of magic.”

“The phrase I’ve been using is making the ordinary extraordinary,” Rice added.

As for the traditional use of rigging and wires to help the actors fly?

“There’s a ton of YouTube videos of people trying to fly as Peter Pan and flying into a set piece,” Wolfe said, laughing. “We’re not trying to do a lot of these things literally but rather represent them in these interesting and beautiful ways.”

“Peter Pan” will be performed May 22 at 10 p.m. and May 23 and 24 at both 8 and 11 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for the general public and will be sold at the door.

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