The Children's Theatre, Inc., will perform "Peter Pan" this weekend at the Schwartz Center for the Arts. The theater group sees a revolving door of young faces, who spend many hours together rehearsing scenes and learning lines.
There may be no better metaphor for the local children's theater group, Children's Theatre, Inc., than its current production, "Peter Pan."
The story follows a mischievous little boy who can fly. And, as if that's not amazing enough, he never ages either. He spends his never-ending childhood having adventures on the small island of Neverland, where he leads a rag-tag bunch known as the Lost Boys. They interact with mermaids, Native Americans, fairies, pirates and mortal children. On any given day, there is adventure and lots of pretending.
Actually, Neverland (and its inhabitants) sound a lot like the child actors of the Children's Theatre, who spend weeks and months at a time, living out endless pages of adventures, sometimes flying around the stage, sometimes dueling but always having a good time.
Like other productions, "Peter Pan" features the talents and skills of more than 30 children, each with various levels of experience.
Eighteen-year-old Brianna Pierce has been a part of CTI for about five years. But, unlike Peter Pan, she's aging out of her Neverland. It's time for her to grow up and move on to the more grown-up world of college at the University of Delaware.
"I've loved the Children's Theatre and I've learned so much," said Pierce. "Oftentimes, with other theater groups, you hear people say that they feel typecast in a specific kind of role. That's not true here. They really let you explore different characters and grow and learn."
Like Pierce, 17-year-old Victoria Stayton will also be moving on to college next year, too. But, unlike Pierce, this will be both her debut and her swansong performance with CTI.
"I joined the group because I wasn't ready for my theater career to be over," said Stayton. "I was in 'Bye, Bye Birdie' at Polytech but I wanted to do something else while I still could."
But, she also wanted to work with the younger kids, too.
"I enjoy getting to spend time with the little kids and watching them learn what theater is about before they get to high school," said Stayton.
There's plenty of opportunities to work with the little ones, too. For each kid that ages out, there seems to be several left behind and even more who are aging into the program.
Eight-year-old Logan Babenko just started working with the group this year after winning rave reviews as the lead in his kindergarten production. He said that the older kids help out all the time with advice, making scenes easier and more fun.
"The bigger kids are nice," said Babenko. "Today, while we were practicing, they were actually showing me when I had to go out of the door to do my part and I was on time this time."
Eleven-year-old Olivia Council, one of The Lost Boys, said that there is a lot to like about The Children's Theatre and a lot that can be learned from the older kids.
"They're really helpful," said Council. "If they have big parts, they practice at home and they encourage the younger kids to practice at home, too."
Not all the older kids are aging out, though. Pierce actually leaves behind her two siblings, Gianna and Teresa, who still have a few years left and a lot more advice for the younger generation.
"It's a really good environment for learning about things that you will need when you are grown up," said Teresa. "You get a lot of practice speaking in front of big groups and learning how to express yourself eloquently and how to project your voice."
Thirteen-year-old Gianna said that she appreciates the lessons learned but that it's the fun that keeps her coming back.
"There are a lot of different ages on stage in 'Peter Pan,'" said Gianna. "But, a lot of my fellow cast mates are my friends, which make the performances and productions more fun. We have a lot to do and a lot to learn but it's always fun."
"Peter Pan" will fly onstage this weekend at 7 p.m., Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Schwartz Center for the Arts in Dover. Tickets can be purchased online at www.schwartzcenter.com or by visiting the box office located at 226 S. State St., Dover.