Two tinker bells, alternate worlds, a menacing crocodile, and an elaborate plaster and fiberglass cave create the stage for “Peter Pan.” being performed tonight and tomorrow at the Montezuma-Cortez high school auditorium.
The excited din of dozens of drama students busily getting into costumes, joking, and generally carousing about, all while fueling up on Dominoes pizza, filled the backstage dressing room before a recent rehearsal.
The imperturbable stage manager, senior Damiond Smith, is a natural at overseeing organized chaos as he checks up on missing actors, delivers slices of pizza, and shouts out the countdown to the first act.
“It is a good play,” he says, taking a nano-second break. “It has less lines to memorize, and is not as long. I love getting to know everybody, and I’m learning good leadership skills.”
Those lessons run deep for theater students, and its hopeful to see youths working together so smoothly, calmly resolving differences when there are disagreements, and then moving on.
And all the while, the 35 student actors and 25-person technical crew are putting on a well-rehearsed performance, says director and theater teacher Nicholaus Sandner.
“They are a good group of students, and we have a really good technical team and set crew, including my artistic wife,” he says.
The show starts off a little slow, a walk in the valley, a crescendo builds — tension and release — and then the actors expertly bring the audience to the mountain top of a euphoric fairy-tale world, complete with a light show, elaborate sets, group sword fights, melodic children’s music, and strange animals.
“We’ve been working out some kinks in our crocodile,” Sandner says, “Steering it is a bit of a challenge, so we will probably have to avoid sharp turns.”
The made-from-scratch, larger-than-life prop is operated by two students scrunched inside. They move the contraption with their legs, operating the PVC tail and gigantic cardboard jaws with levers inside.
An authentic looking wooden pirate ship weighs hundreds of pounds, but it is on wheels so it can be maneuvered quickly into position by the theater crew. On the Lost Boys Cave, the student technical crew developed a plaster and fiberglass body that gives the structure the strength to hold up many students during the performance.
“The students built it from the ground up, and spent hours and hours doing the papier-mâché, painting and design work,” Sandner said.
Captain Hook, aka, sophomore Brock Belt, just nailed memorizing his lines, a feat of serious brain power, considering he just got done memorizing the complex lines in “Clue” which showed just two weeks ago.
“I’ve got them down solid now, just in time,” Belt says.
Responding to what he likes best about theater, Belt says performing for the elementary kids is especially satisfying.
Classes are rotated in, one after another, and the performances are given back to back.
“Kids really love theater, you see them getting mesmerized out there, it’s pretty cool,” Belt said. “Why I love theater? Well, it’s good to get out there and challenge yourself. It’s good for kids who aren’t real sporty but who are outgoing and want to be part of something that’s fun.”
Peter Pan plays on Friday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. and on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. It will also show on Nov. 9 and Nov. 16th at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. both days.
Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, and free for kids five and younger. Tickets can be purchased at the high school commons at 4:20 p.m. or at the door.