October 14, 2009

"Growing Up in Neverland" Offers Fresh Take on "Peter Pan"

neverland_web.jpg Open your hearts to the art of living in the midst of wonder - a return journey to Neverland.

Longtime SSU theatre professor Judy Navas, collaborating with composer Jeff Langley and designer Anthony Bish, breaks the "fourth wall" of Peter Pan with the debut of Growing Up in Neverland, a world premiere production that offers a fresh perspective on J.M. Barrie's classic from Nov. 13-21 on the Evert B. Person Theatre stage.

Featuring an ensemble of talented young actors in the Theatre Arts program, this new version of the beloved story of Peter Pan begins at the first rehearsal of the original performance of the play, Peter Pan. Author J.M. Barrie and a stage-hand are confronted with a curious problem: the "real" characters of Captain Hook and the Crocodile appear unexpectedly in the play's rehearsal. It isn't long before other characters begin to show up.

Has writer Barrie forgotten to "button" shut his imagination before he left his writing desk? What ensues is a wild romp through three imaginative worlds of Neverland, Barrie's mind, and the stage itself. The live-action of this family-oriented production is illuminated by a delightful musical score and song. The set is full of theatrical wizardry that features a pond abundant with fairy creatures, created with black-light effects and puppetry.

"The play deals with different dimensions of fantasy and reality which the medium of theatre is naturally suited to explore," explains Navas. "With some melding of the story of Peter Pan and Barrie's life, I have tried to create a play that is multi-layered, emphasizing the rites of passage of its principal characters.

Growing Up in Neverland
asks children to find a balance between the world of play and the imagination and still face the arduous tasks and exhilarating challenges of growing up.

Director Judy Navas has directed numerous productions at SSU including, Martin McDonagh's The Lonesome West, Wallace Shawn's Aunt Dan and Lemon and Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Some of her own collaborative and original work with students at SSU has included Alice, Mythic Footprint, Prufrock, Ubu Rocks and The Decameron.

Original music for Neverland was composed by Jeff Langley, Professor of Music and Director of the School of Performing Arts. Navas and Langley last collaborated at SSU on the children's musical Peril On the Prairie (1991). Langley is a composer and pianist with a broad experience that spans an unusually wide musical and theatrical spectrum. He has had a varied history as collaborator/pianist with singer/activist Holly Near.

Original compositions for music theatre include the operas Way Past Cool (1995), and The Autumn People 1984), a 1930s musical revue Honeymoon Trailer (1991) and "evening musicale" At Twilight (1988). Other works include a cantata At the Crossing for the Washington National Cathedral (1993), and a wide selection of songs, including the 2005 cycle Return Receipts.

Growing Up in Neverland opens on Friday, Nov. 13 and runs through Saturday, Nov. 21. Tickets are $12 general, $10 fans (SSU faculty, alumni, staff), $8 students, seniors and children under 12. SSU students admitted free with a valid student ID.

Especially recommended for grades K- 5, four performances for youth audiences are scheduled on Nov. 13 and 20 at 9 and 11:30 a.m. For these special performances, tickets for students and parent chaperones are $3. Tickets for teachers and administrators are free.

The play runs approximately 50 minutes without intermission.

Complete performance schedule is:
Fri., Nov. 13, 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m .(K-5 youth performance)
Sat., Nov. 14, 2 p.m.
Tues., Nov. 17, 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Nov. Nov. 1318, 7:30 p.m.
Thurs., Nov. 19, 7:30 p.m. (Faculty/Staff Night)
Fri., Nov. 20, 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m . (K-5 youth performance)
Sat., Nov. 21, 7:30 p.m.

For more information about group sales or to purchase tickets, please call (707) 664-2325 or e-mail jenny.parkinson@sonoma.edu.

For information about the play, contact Jean Wasp, Media Relations Coordinator, (707) 664-2057.

Critics are invited to all shows beginning Nov. 13.

Directions to SSU can be found online at http://www.sonoma.edu/performingarts/perf/venues_dir.shtml.

Jean Wasp
Media Relations Coordinator
University Affairs
(707) 664-2057