MORRIS – The boy who never grew up is coming to Morris this weekend.
The cast of “Peter Pan” includes about 100 students, as it takes that many to play all the Indians, pirates, Lost Boys, classroom children, and of course, the Darling family, Peter Pan and Tinker Bell and the occasional crocodile.
“My actors are outstanding,” Morris Community High School teacher and play director Andrea Gustafson said. “I’ve always wanted to do [this play]. I think it’s a beautiful story.”
Gustafson said her grandmother used to read “Peter Pan” to her when she was a child. The high school is performing the original version of the story, not the Disney version, which has several differences.
“Peter Pan has a little more darkness to him,” Gustafson said of the book version. “You almost get the feeling that he has been through more in his childhood than we know about.”
That’s one aspect of the character that makes the role challenging, said junior Austin Allbert, who plays the title role.
“I think it’s very hard mentally,” Allbert said. “He’s so arrogant and tough.”
His character also is fun, Allbert said, and one of his favorite things about being in the play is that he has such a “sporadic and happy” character. Allbert said he was surprised to find out he landed the role of Peter Pan.
“I was hoping for Captain Hook,” he said. “I was shocked and also very, very happy. It’s my first major role in a play.”
Gustafson noted both men and women have played Peter Pan in various productions. In the MCHS version, Capton Hook will be played by a woman, senior Kirsten Bridgemen.
“Captain Hook’s menacing,” Bridgemen said. “And a goofy character. ... I got to be over-dramatic and over-the-top. That’s the thing I love most about this role.”
Senior Alyssa Rogers plays Wendy, the oldest of the Darling children. And like Allbert, she had a different character in mind when she tried out.
“I wanted to be Peter Pan,” she said. “But when I got Wendy, I was perfectly happy.”
Rogers said she had grown fond of the character during try-outs.
“It’s a challenge,” she said of the role. “At first, I had a hard time balancing acting like a mother figure to the children and also still a child.”
The big challenge Gustafson had with the play was the flying. Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, and the children all fly in the book.
“I thought about it all summer,” she said of how the actors would fly. “But it’s not something we can do in our current auditorium.”
Professionals visited the MCHS auditorium and determined that there was no rigging in the ceiling that would allow harnesses to be connected to the actors. But that was no problem for this cast: A few pairs of Heelys (shoes with wheels on the bottom) and pixie dust, and they were set.
“It worked out beautifully,” Gustafson said. “It is so sweet. And I didn’t need to spend $10,000 on harnesses.”
Some of the actors did go on a field trip to learn some of the special effects. The rapiers, or swords, they use for fighting are heavy and took some getting used to. Gustafson took them to Augustana College to take a one-day sword-fighting class from an expert.
Another special thing about this production is that one audience member at each performance will be chosen through a raffle for a walk-on part as a pirate.
And children attending the sold-out Sunday show are encouraged to dress in Halloween costumes or pajamas, and attend the Peter Pan Party from noon to 1:30 p.m. prior to the show.
The three leads predict a fun show for attendees of all ages.
“I think my favorite part of this play is the magic you feel while doing it,” Bridgemen said. “There’s magic everywhere, and if you feel it and believe it, it’s true.”
If You Go
What: J.M. Barrie's play, “Peter Pan,” by Morris Community High School students.
When: 7 p.m. Thursday; 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday (sold out)
Where: Morris Community High School auditorium, 1000 Union St.
Cost: Tickets are $5 and are available in the high school office or by emailing director Andrea Gustafson at email@example.com. Tickets for the Sunday performance are sold out.
Cast: Junior Austin Allbert is Peter Pan, senior Kirsten Bridgemen plays Captain Hook and Senior Alyssa Rogers plays Wendy. Other cast members are a mix of high school students and younger students and an adult and include Eric Sapsford, Carol Marie Gaska, Dylan Obrochta, Nicholas Russell, Robbi Hicks, Lukas Terhall, Angel Algarin, Lexie Sievert, Madison Colasanti, Arielle Robinson, Jennifer Ashley, and Tiffany Day. Also in the cast are Janelle Gaska, Maggie Dudley, Taylor Breyman, Anja Huettemann, Joah Beal, Elizabeth Smith, Makayla, Jessica Carey, Cole Enervold, Adam Roseland, Holly Gainer, Haleigh Zorn, Justine Boggs, Sam Mateski, Johnathan White, Syd Trotter, Keaton Auwerda, Ava Trotter, Megan Feldges, Jillian Hosek and Ana White. Other cast members are Alexa Rain. Olivia Thorson, Ciara Gallo, Carrington Herman, Emma Vota, Macy Shell, Olivia Drumm, Grace Peacock, Kedzie Auwerda, Molly Gustafson, Kristin Serena, Mackenzie Enger, Caelyn Goffinet, Addison Sanders, Cassidy Roberts, Adam Roseland, John Wolfer, Maria Hulbert, Ava Trotter, Sophie Gaska. Addison Kneller, Aric Huettemann, Molly Jacobson, Rosie Beal, Colleen Stroup, Isabella Padavano, Luke Smith, Grant White, and Sue Boldt.
Technical direction is by MCHS teacher Jennifer Bamonte. The student director is senior Sam Obrochta, and the stage manager is Brittany Hand.