Mr. Brooks and His Concepts on Peter and the Starcatcher

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Will Brooks (left) at the Colorado Thespian Conference with Arapahoe's Troupe.

Ellie Olsen, Reporter

How do you connect with Peter and the Starcatcher? What is different in particular about this show?

I think it’s the story. I like that Peter is a prequel and I don’t like prequels. In general being surprised by the story and the events that happen is something that I feel like is a part of why we watch stories a lot now. And when you are watching a prequel, a lot of them are pretty bad because you know so much about where it’s going. I feel like Peter and the Starcatcher specifically, surprises us along the way in how the play takes a character so far from the Peter Pan we know. What the idea of starstuff is and how that turns into what Neverland is, and where the Mollusks are at to become the people who are on the island. So being surprised by that, because it’s a prequel makes it feel very different. In addition, there’s themes and ideas about fun and imagination that provide a lot of opportunities for high school actors, particularly, and technicians to try something different. I feel like a lot of times when audiences go to see high school theatre, specifically, they have all sorts of expectations about things and defying that is fun for me, so the play gives a lot of opportunity for it to feel new and to feel “now” and to feel like it’s made by the people making that show.

What are you happy with in terms of how the show went?

Before I started it, I didn’t have a whole lot of thoughts on [how I wanted certain elements to be]. Some of it is just being a new teacher here and trying to figure out how we do everything. Some of it is the way that we chose the show. I had several options and I was really okay with us voting on any of those options. Students were most excited about this. Going in, [I wanted] to get a ton of people involved. We had 73 people involved in the show in some way and that is a lot for a high school play. Maybe not a musical, but for a play, it’s a lot of people, so I was super excited by that. I was excited that a lot of people came to see it. I was super excited that afterwards people were walking up to me in the hall and saying, “Hey! That play was good!”. Those things were part of what I wanted to accomplish and I did. As a theatre teacher, those aren’t necessarily extreme in terms of goals, but this is my first semester here, so [putting on the show] was the first thing. So now as we move into other shows I can start to think about “what we usually do”, and [we can add or change certain things] based on the show. For the first one, is mostly about getting a ton of people involved and excited about theatre as an art form. 

If you were to do the show differently, what would you change?

Note: Mr. Brooks did this play last year at Highlands Ranch High School!

One of the things that was different from the first time to the second was the rehearsal schedule. I put the show together in four and a half weeks the first time, and the second time, because we had six, there were a couple more things [I was able to do]. Reflecting on the first time, I was able to say I didn’t like “how I did this” or “I didn’t like how that scene went, so I would need different solutions. This time I was real excited by how a lot of the ensemble scenes went because even though it took a little cajoling, the actors were really committed to what they were doing. I didn’t have a fly system last time, so the height of the visual impact for things was very different for this show and I was very excited about that. If I were to do the show a third time, my first thought is that I would want to do a small cast. The Original Broadway cast has 12-13 people in it. [For example], the idea of Peter in the middle of the scene looking at the audience describing what Peter is going through, or Blackstache being a background sailor at another point, or someone who is an ensemble member in one scene, being the focus of another scene and working their way through the acting challenge of playing multiple characters. Working on character transformation in front of the audiences’ eyes, would be fun. Costume changes in front of the audience is a part of the original thought for how the show should be produced. Now a lot of high school theatre teachers want to put a lot of people onstage, so a lot of the ways that people looking at it are that way now. However; in the Original Broadway [production], the actors were able to build the show in front of their audience and was able to accent that with a small cast.