The MSU Texas theater program opens a show this weekend to the public with Rick Elice’s “Peter and the Starcatcher,” a family-friendly production that serves as a prequel to Peter Pan. The show premiered 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, with additional showtimes at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
“This show is kind of interesting because it has a lot of magic. We find different ways to make the magic. Sometimes we use sets or props or things that are tangible to make the magic. Sometimes we use our bodies [or] just use imagination to make the magic,” Morgan Mallory, professor of theater said. “[When] I knew I was in charge of the show, I did a lot of dreaming to see how we could make those magical moments happen.”
Theater staff decides which shows they will produce on the Fain mainstage a semester in advance of the performance. There are two mainstage shows each semester, and “Peter and the Starcatcher” will conclude the Fall 2022 season. Luke Craddock, theater junior, plays the character Black Stache this weekend.
“The audience is really, really going to enjoy the way that [the] characters, like our bodies, are used to create the scenery,” Craddock said. “It’s an ensemble piece so we’ll be the ones creating a hallway or pictures… I think that’s really unique and interesting and that the audience is going to be [wowed].”
While professors have been preparing for this since the previous semester, the student design team was called in mid-August according to theater education senior Chelsea Chappell. Chappell stage-manages this production and said that she still laughs after having seen the production “hundreds of times.”
“This show is hysterical. Our actors understand comedic beats so well,” Chappell said. “They understand their moments so well and each of them has such a distinct style of comedy… It’s a lot more approachable than some of the deep dark dramas that can feel a little heavy and weird to people that aren’t in theater.”
Reagan Whiteley, theater senior, performs as Molly Aster this weekend. She said she is excited for the cast and crew to have an audience.
“The show is hilarious and high energy, there is so much that happens in this show, magic, mermaids, pirates and more,” Whiteley said. “I’m a little nervous because I was originally the swing, or understudy, for Molly and Bumbrake, but about two weeks ago I had to take over the role of Molly permanently.”
Though this role switch was not in the original plan for the production, Chappell said that as far as the theater world goes, it’s been a smooth process. Mallory confirmed this, and said that theater staff have to be ready for anything.
“We always have [technical issues]… What happens when you’re working with students… there’s always unforeseen things that come up,” Mallory said. “Reagan is actually now doing that track. She’s actually performing that role. I feel like we’re really prepared for those types of things. Theater practitioners, we kind of have to say ‘yes, and’ a lot… we’re always improv-ing a little bit.”
Whiteley said her favorite scenes involve her character Molly and Peter stargazing, and a group of characters including Peter badly telling the story of Sleeping Beauty. Whiteley had to “play catch-up” for her new permanent role, but her preparations as understudy during production gave her a jumping off point.
“The rest of the cast was already off-book and had a month and a half with their characters, where I came in and took over this role very quickly after moments had already been established,” Whiteley said, “I’m very glad I have had these last two weeks to act and prepare with all the people I’m blessed to share the stage with, and I hope I’m ready and can’t wait for people to come and see all the hard work that has gone into this show.”
Actors for “Peter and the Starcatcher” began rehearsals around October and Whiteley assumed her new role two weeks ago. Mallory compared the performance process to a two-hour marathon, one that general audiences will find very pleasant.
“It’s not something that [only] someone who knows a whole lot about theater [will enjoy]…it’s a show that really anyone can enjoy. All ages, students, whatever major you are, it’s a show that really speaks to everyone,” Craddock said. “Anyone can come and see this show and take a lot out of it.”
Mallory said she is very excited to share the hard work of her students. She said it’s physically exhausting and that her students do an amazing job at telling the magical tale of “Peter and the Starcatcher.”
“As an MSU community, it’s in our values to support each other…We make really stellar work here and I think that our theater program here is growing and it’s doing really, really great work.” Mallory said. “There’s some audience interaction moments, some improvisation moments and I just think that the story is just really what the world needs right now.”