Student production of Peter Pan and Wendy wins accolades from its playwright
The Model Secondary School for the Deaf's (MSSD) Performing Arts Program took on the challenge of producing Paul Rand's adaptation of J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan and Wendy and received rave reviews for its performances held November 8-10.
To portray the flight to Neverland, students produced a video that showed Peter Pan, Wendy, John, and Michael "soaring over the rooftops of London." This magical and fun journey used computer-generated graphics and transported the audience to Neverland along with the cast members. Another brilliant use of technology was the shadow play used in a scene where Peter Pan masquerades as Hook to save the Indian maiden, Tiger Lily.
At the opening night performance, in attendance was none other than the playwright himself, Paul Rand. "There are so many choices in the play that I like," he said. "For instance, the flying video-no other school has done that. The theater experience itself is nothing like I've ever had before, not because everyone in it is deaf but because it is visual and heavily physical."
Another visual technique used was the introduction of the sign names for the main characters done in an experimental form of comics called ASL manga by artist Kaori Takeuchi, who is deaf. The illustrations conveyed the motion of each name sign and were displayed on posters outside Theatre Malz and on two screens inside the theater, allowing for audience familiarization with the name signs for each key character prior to the performance.
The physicality of the show played to the strength of actor Kelly Doleac, who had the role of Peter Pan. The athletic Doleac had a sports injury and so decided to audition for a play for the first time. Her role called for dramatic leaps, cartwheels, and tumbles. "The role of Peter Pan is highly athletic. I had to learn how to do some high jumps on and off stage," said Doleac.
Other talented lead student actors were veteran MSSD performers Rebecca Hoffman as the would-be mother Wendy and Seth Washington as Captain Hook. Washington projected a grand and mischievous presence in his role. "My biggest challenge as Captain Hook was having to wear a gloved hook on one hand because I usually use two hands for sign language. I had to be creative with my ASL [American Sign Language]," he said.
The students played a huge role in the production of Peter Pan and Wendy. "I delegated some of the tasks to the students, such as creating scenes and the movie themselves," said director Tami Santimyer. "The students were empowered to take on leadership roles while utilizing their creativity."
Next up at MSSD will be the 31st winter dance concert, "Gotta Dance," directed by Yola Rozynek and featuring both MSSD student performers and guest dancers and choreographers, on February 7-9, 2013. On April 25-27, MSSD students will perform in the spring play, Seussical, directed by student Seth Washington. Audiences are sure to have a great time at both!