From the La Jolla Playouse Website:
Peter and the Starcatchers
February 13 – March 8, 2009
Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre
Written by Rick Elice
Lyrics by Rick Elice
Music by Wayne Barker
Directed by Roger Rees & Alex Timbers
Based on the Book by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson
A Page To Stage Workshop Production, by special arrangement of Disney Theatrical Productions
La Jolla Playhouse will present Peter and the Starcatchers, a new play, as part of its Page to Stage program in the Winter of 2009, by special arrangement with Disney Theatrical Productions. Based on the popular novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, Peter and the Starcatchers – a prequel to Peter Pan – will play in La Jolla Playhouse’s Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre from February 13 through March 8, 2009.
Written by Rick Elice, directed by Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, Peter and the Starcatchers reveals the wonderful story that precedes J. M. Barrie’s beloved Peter Pan. Young orphan Peter and his mates sail aboard the Never Land in a high seas adventure, battling pirates to keep secret a mysterious and dangerous cargo.
Know Before you go:
An Awfully Big Adventure
Literary Manager Gabriel Greene sat down with the creative team for Peter and the Starcatchers to hear their thoughts on bringing the project from the page to the stage.
On staging the first production at La Jolla Playhouse:
Ken Cerniglia (dramaturg): Being asked to turn Dave and Ridley’s epic best-selling novel into a play was at once thrilling and daunting — how do we get all that action onto the stage? Although things have certainly evolved since the conception of this project two years ago, the approach — the first impulse — hasn’t varied. Everyone’s going to play everything. You’re going to look at the stage and think you’re seeing nothing and then set and characters are just pulled out of nowhere and come into full presence. There’s going to be true “play” in this play. That was one of the first discussions we had and that absolutely remains the ethos of the piece. Now we get to see those ideas come to fruition for the first time.
Alex Timbers (co-director): Typically, when you mount a new play, you’re trying to learn about the viability of the play itself: working on the script and making sure you’re telling the story. We’re actually trying to do two things: figure out the viability of the script, and the viability of a staging concept. Usually, a fully-produced world premiere of a play has representational scenery and people dressed in full as the people they’re playing. But we’re trying to do the production that might be done twenty years from now: re-imagining Peter and the Starcatchers in this cool, spare way. When something is working, you can feel the synergy between the script and the staging. The Page To Stage process helps us explore that synergy most effectively.
Rick Elice (playwright): Having worked here on Jersey Boys, I know La Jolla Playhouse is the ideal place to do something new. Your audiences understand that this play has never been done before; there’s an entirely blank canvas, or a canvas that exists only in the minds of a few people. It’s our responsibility to take what’s in our minds and translate it into concrete terms for the audience. When the script says a character walks through a door, you would read it and assume that there’s going to be a door. But in this production, the actors make the door; the actors are actually creating a world, not just inhabiting it. It’s fascinating. And it’s a very, very complex, challenging, detailed, and creative assignment with lots of need for trial and error. That’s what this process has been about. It’s a big mother of a ship, this play.
On the role of songs in the play:
Wayne Barker (composer): I came on relatively late in the process, when there was already a complete script. It was peppered with capital letters, which always jump out as lyrics — although sometimes in such an active story you’re never sure if people are singing or shouting!
RE: It was not insensible, or even insensitive, to bring in Wayne once the play existed, because the songs in this play function in a different way than they would if this were a musical. Here, the songs appear and function as added value for the storytelling. They do not move the story forward. They do not explicate or dramatize plot points the way songs generally function in a musical.
WB: I had the great advantage of Rick’s total command of style and pastiche and knowing exactly what was good in this spot, and what kind of music would go in that spot. Rick was able to conceive of words that fit perfectly viable tunes that just needed to be plucked from the ether and set down on paper by the likes of me. There were a couple of places where I had an idea that seemed counter to what was on the page, so I hesitated. But Rick, of all of my many collaborators, is the one to insist, “Go with your first impulse!” I can’t tell you how many bruises I have on the side of my head from his insistence on my going with my first impulse.
RE: These songs function as little bonbons of pleasure. That’s why I kept smacking Wayne in the head: because he starts out really, really pleasurable then his naturally dour disposition starts taking over his work. (Laughs)
On the idea of never growing up:
RE: When I was a boy I used to think about aping my elders; I aspired to be like adults. Now our culture has adults aspiring to be like children, and that makes it a really good time to do this play [about how an orphan boy becomes Peter Pan]. What better expression is there of youth obsession than the concept of never growing old? A fascinating new perspective on this for adults is to appreciate what we give up by not ever reaching maturity. As much fun as it would be to fly around and never have a wrinkle, now that I’m in the middle of my life, I look back over what my life it has been so far and what I expect it to be and I think, “I’d rather have experienced those (grownup) things, which make life worth living more than flying up and down the beach or fighting pirates.” I imagine even Peter, if he had been given a voice to say so, would have gotten a little bit bored with all that eventually. That’s why he keeps coming back to London, I would guess. He’s looking for other things to do.
Roger Rees (co-director): There’s a line that Alex and I like very much in the [original Barrie] play, spoken by Mrs. Darling just before she leaves the children alone: “I thought I saw a face at the window.” And of course that’s Peter Pan. Always outside the glass, looking in.
RE: What I got from Roger and Alex in the early workshops is that they wanted an adult perspective on a youthful subject matter. I started imagining Moses looking over the Promised Land and not ever being allowed to go in. At this point in my life, I would much rather be an anonymous Israelite who actually got to walk into the Promised Land and stand on the land of milk and honey, rather than be held back by God: “Looks nice, doesn’t it? But because you hit that rock instead of talked to it you’re not going to get a chance to go in.” Hopefully, this play will enable the audience to feel better about where they are in the course of their lives, and to think, “Maybe it wouldn’t be so great to be trapped, forever on the verge.”