As a fixture and integral part of the Lexington theatrical community for more than four decades, Trish Clark has seen her fair share of great stage productions.
But in 2015, she saw a Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park production of “Peter and the Starcatcher” featuring Nick Vannoy and while she was there to support a friend, Clark walked away completely surprised.
“I could not believe what I saw in that production in that evening,” said Clark, the executive and artistic director of the Woodford Theatre. “It was the best time I had spent in theatre in a very long time. I knew that I wanted to do it, but I knew I needed exactly the right people, exactly the right time.”
It would appear the right time is now. For its last theatrical production of the 2018-19 season, Woodford Theatre will present “Peter and the Starcatcher,” which will run May 17 through June 2.
“Peter and the Starcatcher” tells a very familiar story in an unfamiliar and unexpected way. Based on the book by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry and adapted to the stage by Rick Elice (“Jersey Boys”), the play shows the origin story of “the boy who would never grow up”, a.k.a. Peter Pan. It also touches on everything from how a notorious pirate named Black “Stache” Moustache became Captain Hook, how The Lost Boys formed and discover Peter’s relationship with Wendy’s mother, Molly Aster.
While the story is compelling on paper and features fantastical elements, how “Peter and the Starcatcher” is brought to life on stage is truly where the magic happens. This simultaneously presented the greatest joys and difficulties to the Woodford Theatre cast and crew.
Much of what takes place on stage isn’t courtesy of elaborate props, set pieces and costumes but more a result of the partnership and active imaginations of 12 actors sharing the spotlight and the audience members.
Evan Bergman, the play’s director, said he wanted to make sure he found actors that were “the people that were really willing to play.” He said during the audition process, he would have the actors conduct exercises based on the ideas of the script instead of reading lines from the script – like what they would do to show a boat sinking.
“Is this something that you’re even into? Do you like the idea of sweating a lot and figuring out how to play the way we used to play when we were kids?” Bergman said, recalling the auditions. “This play demands it. That’s what so fun for an audience is to watch adults play like that.”
Clark knew she had a great foundation for making “Peter and the Starcatcher” fly when she got Bergman on board to direct and Vannoy, who had previous experience in Woodford productions, to play Stache. It has a stage script that is open to interpretation and what you see on stage is oftentimes hilarious and silly. Once the play was cast, there were 10 weeks of rehearsals (almost twice the length of rehearsals for a normal Woodford production) to get the precise timing down to pull off some of the play’s sequences.
“That’s when people are like, ‘Oh my god, are we doing this again?’ Yeah, we’re doing this again and we’re doing it again after that,” Bergman said.
“You have to really use your imagination. You really have to move together, so it takes quite a bit of time,” Clark said. “Creating it is what makes it so very special.”
This will be Clark’s last theatrical season with Woodford and she is delighted she gets to close out a season of comedic and fun plays with this one. She describes it like watching “children trying to find anything in the house to make a story work.” When you ask Clark or anyone else involved, “Peter and the Starcatcher” gets to the essence of to the beauty and joy of the craft itself.
Peter and the Starcatcher
When: May 17-19, 24-26 and May 30 through June 2; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 30
Where: Woodford Theatre, 275 Beasley Road, Versailles
Tickets: $22 adults, $15 student or child; 859-873-0648 or woodfordtheatre.com