Arts and Entertainment

'Peter Pan’ soars; Friday Harbor High School Drama Group’s production opens Thursday

Clockwise from left, the cast of “Peter Pan” includes Tristan Wood as Peter Pan; Miles Cobos and Cole Ducote as two of the pirates; Parks Barnard as Captain Hook; and Rhiannon Serna, Tinkerbell. - Scott Rasmussen
Clockwise from left, the cast of “Peter Pan” includes Tristan Wood as Peter Pan; Miles Cobos and Cole Ducote as two of the pirates; Parks Barnard as Captain Hook; and Rhiannon Serna, Tinkerbell.
— image credit: Scott Rasmussen

At a Glance
— What: “Peter Pan.”
— When: Thursday through Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.
— Tickets: Adults $16, students $8, RUSH $5.
— Call: 378-3210. The box office is open Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
— Online:

Pirates. Pixie dust. A perpetually-young boy who refuses to grow up ... oh, and an alligator that ticks.

Add ’em up and it can mean only one thing.

The Friday Harbor High School Drama Group is ready to fly ... literally.

You’ll see cast members soar and the fantastical world of Neverland recreated on center stage at the San Juan Community Theater as Fred Yockers and his band of young thespians bring to life all the whimsy and delight of Scottish playwright J.M. Barrie’s classic children’s tale, “Peter Pan, or The Boy who Wouldn’t Grow Up.”

The play opens Thursday night, followed by evening shows on Friday and Saturday, and concludes Sunday with a matinee performance.

If you thought topping last year’s production of “Grease” would be difficult ... maybe so. But the cast and crew of this year’s production can’t wait to give it a shot in what promises to be one of the Drama Group’s most elaborate performances to date.

“Last year, it was a musical and that was totally different because you had all the dancing and the singing,” said senior Tristan Wood, who will tackle the starring role of Peter Pan in this year’s production. “This year you have lots of sword fighting, scene changes and the flying, of course, so I feel like (Yockers) is stepping up this production.”

It’s the second year in a row that Yockers has been swayed by the students in choosing a play for the annual production. Last year, he was strong-armed into staging “Grease.” But this time, the students didn’t have to push too hard. Yockers, now in his 18th year at the helm of the high school drama program, liked the idea from the get-go and cites four reasons why.

First, there was the effusive lobbying by two students. Next were the parallels between island living and the insulated existence of Neverland. Third was his long-standing affinity for the beauty of the prose that leaps from the pages of Barrie’s original script. And No. 4 was the clincher.

“The last one is one that I’m very proud of,” he said. “Which is ... I haven’t grown up. I do all the things in life that adults do, but sometimes I look in the mirror and see the 12-year-old that I was, parting my hair with a pompadour, and don’t know where the 50 years in between went.”

Yockers believes “Peter Pan” has elements that capture any imagination regardless of a person’s age. And though convinced of the choice, he knew it meant the cast and crew would have to go places they’d never been.

“If you’re going to do ‘Peter Pan,’ people have to fly,” he said.

So Yockers recruited the world’s preeminent theatrical flying company, Flying by Foy, to rig the stage and train those cast members selected to fly, as well as a team of volunteers, many of whom are parents of flyers and who will operate an intricate series of pulleys, ropes and levers from the wings during each performance.

In addition to rigging the stage, Foy Flight Director Christof Bruening last week provided more than 30 hours of training to prepare cast, crew and operators in the art of flying on stage.

Wood admits that crossing swords with Captain Hook while suspended in air will be a challenge. Senior Parks Barnard, who doubles as Captain Hook and as Mr. Darling, agrees. He’s eager about doing a bit of swashbuckling on stage just the same.

“The flying is the main part of it,” Barnard said of the many challenges the cast must overcome. “And I’ve also never had to do any stage fighting in one of Fred’s productions, so that’s going to be really fun.”

Notebook: The mural which makes up the backdrop of the stage was hand-painted by high school senior Christine Olshefsky ... The play’s piano pieces, both the lullaby and theme music, were written and performed by junior Desi Whalen, and recorded at Spring Street International School ... Flying by Foy choreographed the aerial elements of “Peter Pan” for the second time on the island. The company provided its expertise for the 1993 production at SJCT; however, that production featured a mixed adult-youth cast.

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