Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Peter Pan Flies at Valley View Middle School Theatre April 12-14

Creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, cultural competence and more: Activities like this production of Peter Pan allow our students to put all of  these crucial 21st century skills into practice. Thank you to the incredible team of community supporters who help our students soar!  
Ric Dressen @EdinaSuper

Amid ropes, railings, and ship’s wheel, a skirmish of Pirates and Lost Boys fill the stage of the EPAC theater. The Lost Boys struggle to save Wendy, John and Michael, held captive by pirates. Captain Hook steps menacingly towards Peter and just as Hook reaches out, Peter leaps from the ship --and flies through air! Peter Pan is flying! It’s all part of Valley View Middle School’s production of Peter Pan (School Version). The cast and crew has grown to over 170 students participating in the Spring Musical performance. 

Peter “flies” with the help of a little stage magic. Strapped into what looks like a skydiver’s harness and cables, he is “flown” using the weight of the ground crew for launch. Peter Pan and the main leads are double cast. Ben Weisman and Luke Eidsvold take turns facing Hook (Alex Kaufman and Daniel Sandberg) with the dramatic leap. The effect is thrilling and eye-catching.

Just as suddenly as the chaos begins, the cast falls silent and listens intently to Director Elizabeth Chaigne.  She energetically demonstrates a slide and snap of the feet, and discusses the psychology behind Hook’s actions. She turns to stage left. “Lean into the girl,” she instructs the pirates surrounding Wendy (Andreley Bjelland and Tori Adams), which they do threateningly. When Elizabeth Chaigne speaks, students stop  and listen. Students don’t seem to mind the public critiques and suggestions for their performance. Co-director Beth Solberg says, “Time is short. They get it fast.” Students learn to listen to directions and to listen to each other. They manage the spaces around them as they sing and dance on stage to the live musical accompaniment of Cathy Zajec and the choreography of Jolene Konkel. The stage whirls in organized chaos.

As the scenes are rehearsed, the stage crews supply sound effects, wrangle mikes and spot scenes with light. The crews are shown how to operate the equipment by professional sound and lighting designers, but manage the work themselves. New students are taught to run equipment and given responsibilities;  many return yearly to build on the skills they have learned. Crew students say the most important thing they learn is working as a team.

Many parents find themselves offering their skills and services to the theater department—and it shows. Beth Solberg grew up in a theater family, and became involved with theater at Valley View when her kids became thespians—one now a senior in the Edina High School Theater department. As well as co-director duties, she lends her skills to the design of the sets and the builds. Parent and student volunteers keep up the momentum. Deb Conover uses her background in costume design; Regina Neville contributes with her background in Theater Management. Peter Schmit and his daughter work every set build together. The set build area is a busy place. Volunteers paint scenery, build frames, and transform crushed paper and chicken wire into rocks, trees, and Peter Pan’s secret Neverland hide-out.

It’s a community effort. The results of months of preparation and hard work can be seen this week in four performances at the Edina Performing Arts Center, 6754 Valley View Road (across the parking lot from the Valley View Middle School.). Peter Pan show times are Thursday April 12, Friday April 13, and Saturday April 14 at 7pm. There is also a matinee performance on April 14 at 1:00pm. 

Ticket information can be found at http://www.edina.k12.mn.us/valleyview/ or tickets may be purchased at the door. 

Let Tinkerbell and her dancers throw a little pixie dust and transport you to the magic of Neverland and Peter Pan!

Elizabeth Franklin

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