In one of my out-of-state projects, I worked with All-of-Us-Express Children's Theatre, the resident theater company of East Lansing, MI, to direct their summer production of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. All-of-Us-Express is a long-standing company with a well-organized Guild program, teaching practical theatrical skills of all sorts to children of all ages, so that each department of the show, including all designed elements, are primary created on by young people. With a cast of 50 young actors ranging from 6-16, and a crew of almost as many, we created a production that highlighted the necessity of imagination and the grief that comes with growing up. Reported to be the third best-selling production in All-of-Us-Express' 28-year history.
From the director's notes: "One central idea we discovered in our early rehearsals is that, in Neverland, anything can happen and anyone can be anything if they simply imagine it to be so. Unlike the “real” world, where gravity, money, and society govern our everyday existence, the citizens of Neverland make their own rules. People can fly. Food is plentiful. Everyone is accepted for who they are, even the pirates. Even the violence of war comes from the imagination of what children think it should be like. It is a magical place.
To complicate matters, however, is the underlying conflict of Peter Pan: not the inevitable battle between Hook and Peter, but the unsettling question to the adults and young adults in the audience: what do we lose between childhood and adulthood? Why do we have to start seeing the world “as it is” and not how we wish it would be? Why do we have to start following the rules of the real world? Peter Pan irritatingly doesn’t answer those questions for us. Instead, for both children and adults, it forces us to confront, when we walk out of the theater, how we might recapture the use of imagination, and how we can use our imaginations to make real the kind of world we want for our children, and their children, and generations to come."