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Darkly Playful Retelling of `Peter Pan' at Barber Theater Feb. 13-22

February 11, 2009 | by Judy Moore
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Audience members will be transported to Never Land during the Theatre and Interpretation Center (TIC) at Northwestern University's stage production of the beloved story of Peter Pan, Wendy, Michael, John, Captain Hook, Smee, the lost boys and Tinker Bell.

In a highly physical staging of this production, student actors have been trained to spin and swing across the stage on ropes to simulate flight, a metaphor for freedom and entering the unknown.

Seven performances of TIC's production of "Peter Pan or The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up" will be held at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 13; 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14; 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 15; 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19; 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20; 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22, at the Ethel M. Barber Theatre, 30 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston campus. A darkly playful examination of the decision to grow up or remain forever in Never Land, the show is appropriate for children aged 8 and older and their families.

"Peter Pan or The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up" is a two-act comic drama based on J.M. Barrie's classic tale and adapted for the stage by Trevor Nunn and John Caird. It is one of multiple versions of Barrie's tale and will be presented by TIC in this spectacular and physical retelling.

In addition to aerial feats, the production tackles important issues for both children and adults, such as what it means to leave your childhood behind and the differences between make-believe and reality.

Amanda Dehnert, assistant professor of theatre at Northwestern's School of Communication, will direct the winter 2009 production.

"'Peter Pan' is a family show that parents should attend with their children and talk about afterwards," said Dehnert. "It's not a traditional version of the tale. The story of 'Peter Pan' exists in multiple forms and our artistic team has developed a 'Peter Pan' unlike any other. We have created a big, empty space where anything can happen. Much of the production works like a dream, and in some instances, as a nightmare, wherein children work things out through their imagination."

In Northwestern's version of Barrie's play, Peter almost dies in a sword fight with Captain Hook, Wendy chooses to grow up and have a daughter of her own (who appears on stage during the play's epilogue) and Captain Hook and his pirates -- who want to steal children so they can kill and eat them -- are referred to as "nightmare monsters."

"There are real dangers in Never Land, but the good guys win," assured Dehnert. "So even though children are often in peril in 'Peter Pan,' they always survive."

Northwestern's production will feature a 26-member student cast, with the character of Tinker Bell portrayed through a real actor on stage and also through the lighting design, in the form of a shimmering light. As part of the costume design, many of the characters will be wearing harnesses in order to use the ropes on stage for various aerial feats.

The original stage play "Peter Pan" debuted in December 1904. Since that time it has appeared in numerous adaptations. Dehnert said that the reason the story of "Peter Pan" has survived as a piece of theater for more than a century is its level of spectacle.

"Peter -- the child that wouldn't grow up -- is a character that people remain fascinated with because he has all of the powers they sometimes wish they had," she said. "It taps into something very fundamental."

As part of the Northwestern production concept the audience will begin experiencing the environment from the moment they enter the theater.

Single tickets for "Peter Pan or The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up" are $25 for the general public; $22 for senior citizens and Northwestern faculty and staff and area teachers and administrators; and $10 for students with valid IDs.

For tickets, call (847) 491-7282 or visit http://www.tic.northwestern.edu.

Topics: Campus Life