The Shippensburg high school Drama Club brought “Peter and the Starcatcher” to life with humor, energetic scenes, and a little imagination.
The club performed the play last Thursday and Saturday in the high school’s auditorium. The play follows a nameless orphan boy on a high seas adventure who later becomes Peter Pan. Based on Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s 2004 bestselling children’s novel “Peter and the Starcatchers,” the play was adapted for the stage by Rick Elice.
Near the beginning of the play, the Boy (played by Zachary Levy) and two other orphans, Ted (played by Cameron Wilson) and Prentiss (played by Ray Knight), are shipped off from Victorian England to a distant island ruled by the evil King Zarboff. On their ship, a mysterious trunk with precious cargo sits in the captain’s cabin. At sea, the boys are discovered by a young girl named Molly Aster (played by Maddie Madamba), a Starcatcher-in-training, who realizes that the trunk’s precious cargo is starstuff, a substance so powerful it can make your dreams come true. They try to make sure the starstuff doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, but when the ship is taken over by pirates – led by Black Stache, a ruthless yet entertaining villain – the journey quickly becomes a fast-paced adventure.
Play Director Luke Reed said he wanted the club to perform “Peter and the Starcatcher” because he knew the talented cast could take on the numerous roles. The play often featured dozens of actors on stage at the same time as they depicted ship crews, island natives, mermaids, and more.
“It's a very technically-complex show,” Reed said. “It kind of takes off, and it expects you to keep up with it.”
He said the play was a challenge, but the cast and crew did a wonderful job in working together. He noted they had been rehearsing every weekday from 3 to 6 p.m. since near the start of school.
Reed said he was most proud of the club performing the play for all Shippensburg students in grades K to 5. The students were bused to the high school to watch the play earlier this month, and Reed thanked all the principals and administrators involved in making that happen.
“We're so thankful they could support the arts,” Reed said.
Zachary Levy, who played the Boy, said it was a lot of fun doing the play for the children.
“That’s a whole generation of Shippensburg students who saw a show,” he said. “I think that will have a big impact.”
Zachary, a freshman with a love for music, said “Peter and the Starcatcher” was his first play ever. He said he knew he wanted to do something art related at the start of the school year, and he decided to audition for a role in the play after discussing it with his friend, Luke Hershey, who played lead roles in previous high school plays until graduating this past school year.
“It’s so fun to just play – to put on a show,” Zachary said. He added the feeling he gets on stage is one of the best feelings in his life.
Even the grueling rehearsal schedule didn’t deter him from acting. In fact, all the practice brought the cast and crew closer together, he said.
“I loved it. It’s nothing short of a family here,” Zachary said. “I’m sad that it’s over, but it was a great production.”
Reed said he has enjoyed seeing Zachary’s growth as an actor the past few months.
“As an actor, he commits his whole heart,” he said. “The amount of commitment, that’s the harder thing to teach.”
Zachary shared the stage several times with senior Luke Lyman, who played Black Stache – the conniving and theatrical pirate who turns into Peter Pan’s arch nemesis, Captain Hook.
Lyman said he had a lot of fun playing the character of Black Stache. “It was a character I could explore so much,” he said.
“The cast worked so hard,” said Lyman. “It was an amazing experience.”
Lyman's younger brother, 14-year-old Zeke, said his brother did really well as Black Stache. He added that the play was very funny and entertaining.
Lyman especially excelled in scenes with Mady Rosenberry, who played Smee – the savvy pirate who would do anything for Black Stache, forming a hilarious bond when the two were on stage together. Director Luke Reed noted Lyman and Mady have played opposite each other a few times, and they have incredible rapport and timing.
Maddie Madamba, a sophomore who played Molly Aster, shared inspiring scenes with Zachary as their characters grew closer together along their journey. Molly is desperate to prove herself to her father, a starcatcher named Lord Leonard Aster (played by Allison Findley), and she enlists the help of the orphan boys to complete a mission to protect the starstuff. Reed noted Maddie has been acting for several years, and she has become a very supportive and intelligent actor.
Several scenes stood out in the play, some for their humor and others for their use of minimal props while still achieving an amazing effect. One of the funniest scenes came at the start of the second act after a school of fish had swam through the starstuff and turned into mermaids. The second act begins with a dancing celebration of mermaids, who were clad in sparkling wraps and bikinis made from everyday objects, for a fun and child-like atmosphere.
Another memorable scene was when a gigantic crocodile was going to eat a few of the characters who were captured on the island. For the scene, most of the lights were turned off, and the audience could only see two red lights, representing the crocodile’s eyes, and two rows of lit-up orange traffic cones, representing the creature’s teeth. Actors holding the cones very cleverly made it seem like the crocodile’s mouth was engulfing the characters.
The two-story set, composed of skids and rough-cut wood, was simple yet flexible enough for the crew to adapt to numerous scenes such as being on board a ship, under the sea, or walking on an island. The minimal set decorations and child-like props encouraged the audience to use their imagination while watching the play.
Reed said he loved using everyday objects to create scenery. For example, when a few of the characters ventured into the jungle, they became lost. To represent all the trees and jungle foliage overcoming them, each lost character was surrounded with half a dozen green umbrellas held by several actors on stage.
Reed said he was thrilled by the performances, and he couldn’t be more proud of the cast and crew. He said he hoped all their hard work made for a seamless production.
Reed noted the play almost didn’t happen on Saturday. He said a squirrel had ventured into a transformer box, causing a power outage at the high school. Luckily, the problem was quickly fixed, and he thanked all those involved in fixing it.
Don Strayer of York, grandfather of the play’s assistant director, Titus Manetta, said he enjoyed the play, noting it was very funny.
“It was amazing to see all the props and the things they do,” Strayer said, adding one of his favorite scenes was the opening of the second act.
The club also collected cans of nonperishable food for King’s Kettle Food Pantry in Shippensburg prior to their performances. Donating a can got an attendee $1 off the price of admission.
The company performing “Peter and the Starcatcher” were: Alena Dobbs, stage manager; Allison Findley, Lord Leonard Aster; Anna Pyatt, crew; Ashley Miller, ensemble; Ashton Ulmer, crew; Cameron Wilson, Ted; Cole Souders, percussion; Daphne Calder, light board operator; Drew Haritos, Mr. Grempkin; Emma Watt, ensemble; James Telesky, Alf; Jill Thompson, ensemble; Joey Massara, Sanchez; Kandice Robinson, crew; Kendra Kent, Mack; Luky Lyman, Black Stache; Maddie Madamba, Molly Aster; Madi Carr, Captain Robert Falcon Scott; Mady Rosenberry, Smee; Margaret Spicka, crew; Megan Reinsfelder, crew; Michaela Cameron, ensemble and pianist; Natalie Crawford, Fighting Prawn; Nicole Ocker, Captain Bill Slank; Paige Cavanaugh, Mrs. Bumbrake; Ray Knight, Prentiss; Samantha Lohman, Hawking Clam; Sierra Hardin, teacher; Wake Kipe, crew/sound/spotlight; and Zachary Levy, Boy.
Also assisting with the play were: Suzanne Lloyd, production manager; Caitlin Howley, technical director; Titus Manetta, assistant director; and Mark Reed, master carpenter. The sound technicians were Caitlin Howley, Scott Burkholder, and Wade Kipe. The lighting technicians were Daphne Calder and Wade Kipe. The props artisans were David Hewitt and Sierra Hardin. The stage manager was Alena Dobbs. The Musicians were Michaela Cameron and Cole Souders.