An adventure into new territory is proving to be a soaring success at DreamWrights Youth & Family Theatre, where for the first time a longstanding tradition of using two complete casts is complemented by the addition of two directors as well.
The directors — longtime director and theater founder Diane Crews and newcomer Paige Hoke — couldn't be happier.
“It's not everyone really who can do this,” Crews says, describing a full slate of nightly rehearsals with the casts, extra work on weekends, managing the volunteer crews and more. “It's a lot to juggle. You have to really like people, and little ones in particular” to direct two casts of eager children and adults.
“Peter Pan and Wendy,” which opens Friday, Feb. 8, is the first show to benefit from splitting the work between two directors. It has been a lightening of the load that Crews hopes to repeat for future productions.
“If you're working professional theater, you have a whole team of artisans and artists to work with,” she says. “Here we have wonderful volunteers, but ... the director is responsible for everything.”
Coming home: Hoke, a recent theater graduate of Arcadia University near Philadelphia, grew up with DreamWrights.
“The first show I was in was ‘The Little Princess' in 1999,” she says, as an Indian dancer. She continued to perform and attended the theater's summer camps before pursuing her passion for theater in college. And now that she's back and taking the director's chair?
“It was a little intimidating at first, but now that it's going, I've kind of found my stride,” Hoke says.
DreamWrights might even put Hoke's original prequel, “Peter Pan and Mary,” about the mother of Wendy, John and Michael Darling and her adventures with the boy who won't grow up, into production in the future.
For now, though, both Hoke and Crews are amid a flurry of activity as they prepare to open “Peter Pan and Wendy.”
“It is not Disney, it is not exactly the story (J.M.) Barrie wrote, but I think it's a very nice telling,” Crews says of the stage adaptation.
The show: With an action-packed adventure like “Peter Pan,” sometimes the hardest part is keeping the young performers on task.
“There are a lot of fights (in the show) — three,” says Hoke. Peter and his band of boys scrap with pirates and Indians, and of course Peter battles his nemesis Captain Hook.
“To the kids, those aren't challenges; they're the best part of the show,” Crews adds, as she and Hoke describe the theater's safety-first approach to stage combat. “You train forever to fight on stage, and they get so excited.”
For the adults, there's something magical in that innocent joy of childhood.
“That sense of keeping your ability to play and imagine even though you are a grown-up with responsibilities” is part of what DreamWrights' production showcases, Hoke says.
“We have to grow up, but we don't have to become old people,” Crews says. “When I move, I know I'm 65, but inside I'm quite young still.”
See the show“Peter Pan and Wendy” runs for three weekends at DreamWrights Youth & Family Theatre, 100 Carlisle Ave., York.
Shows start at 6:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Feb. 8, 9, 15, 16, 22 and 23, and at 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, Feb. 9, 10, 16, 17, 23 and 24.
On Saturday, Feb. 16, the 2:30 performance will be audio described and a pre-show “touch tour” will start at 1:30 p.m. for audience members with visual impairments. A playlet and breakfast performance designed for young children will be offered at 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 23.
Tickets are $8 for general admission and $12 for reserved seats. Playlet tickets are $10. Advance purchases are required for the audio-described show and the playlet.
For more information, call (717) 848-8623 or visit www.dreamwrights.org.
— Reach Mel Barber at email@example.com.