After all, is there a more nomadic hero than Peter Pan? His flights take him from London to the upper atmosphere of the night sky to Neverland and back again. He alights on pirate ships, on rocky shores, on nursery windowsills. How does a director evoke his journey without pulleys on a stage that is 30 feet by 30 feet?
By sheer grit, that’s how. A cast of fourteen kokens who have been called the ‘real scene stealers’ in this show soundlessly crouch, lift, slink and slide all over the tiny stage of the Todd Wehr Theater.
They do it twelve times a week, sometimes three times a day, fully masked and clothed in black, resembling silent ninjas. They are the human equivalent of flight rigs and cranes that many theaters rent for their productions of Peter Pan. They move props and operate puppets too.
|Katie Shelledy as Wendy being lifted by Tim Linn. Kite operated by Joey Wurm. Sam Skogstad as Peter. Photographed by Mark Frohna.|
Jeff Frank admits that his approach was risky and that he didn’t have a back-up plan. But he didn't need one. He knew that with enough preparation and with the strength of First Stage's production department behind him, the technique would suceed.
Indeed, it has. Critics raved. Children gasp. Parents get teary. And Rob Goodman crows his delight. “It is a magical sight! These kokens transport us all to Neverland with total ease, using only the power of theater. It's magnificent!”
Jeff Frank smiles and shrugs. He’s on to the next challenge: how to grow Pinocchio’s nose.
|Paris Karstedt as Wendy, lifted by Ron Lee; Jordan Horne as Peter Pan,lifted by James Fletcher; Lawrence Hapeman as Michael, lifted by Luke Mizer and Corwin Weeks. Photographed by Mark Frohna.|