Leading ladies at Linden Hall

By on April 4, 2018

All female ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ opens Thursday

Every theatre production faces its unique set of challenges. Whether it be the weather and canceled rehearsals, illness affecting the cast and crew, or simply the constraints of time, the show must go on.

Dennis Foreman, theater arts teacher and chaplain at Linden Hall School for Girls, Lititz, faced a challenge many other high school productions never need to consider. Linden Hall is an all girl’s school. The spring show, “Peter and the Starcatcher,” calls for a bevy of male actors and only one female role. Despite this difference between the show and the school’s players, Foreman did not have a problem casting the show.

“Here at Linden Hall we are gender- and color-blind in our casting,” said Foreman, director of the show. “I’m just doing it with all girls. At this point I’m accustomed to doing that.”
Historically, gender bending on stage is nothing new. Ancient Greeks feared the stage was far too dangerous for women. In England, women were not allowed on stage until mid-1600s; men played all theatrical roles until the fall of Oliver Cromwell. (Margaret Hughes, who played Desdemona in Thomas Killigrew’s production of “Othello,” is credited as being the first recorded female actor.) At Linden Hall, roles are figuratively and literally reversed.

“Peter and the Starcatcher” tells the story of Boy (Ana Berns) as he is thrust into a world of child slavery along with Prentiss (Eva Hain) and Ted (Ella Warfel). The rub in this comedic origin story of Peter Pan is that two travel containers — one filled with worthless sand and the other filled with magical starstuff — have been shuffled aboard two sailing ships: the sleek and fast Wasp and the cumbersome and trudging Neverland. The ships are commandeered by pirates, the most grandiose of which is Black Stache (Natasha Solomon), who eventually becomes known as Captain Hook.

The cast of Linden Hall’s “Peter and the Starcatcher” took a break from rehearsing on April 2 to pose for a photo. They are: (left side, top) Lily Chow; (left middle, l-r) Sarah Quiros, Julianna Mack, Chloe Hain; (left front, l-r) Delaney Redford, Anika Monteforte, Anna Quiros, Ella Warfel, Serena Monteforte; (center) Ana Berns, as Peter; (right top) Tessa Carroll; (right front, l-r) Audrey Weinlader, Eva Hain, Izzy Hardin, Calista Jenkins, Meredith Longer, Natasha Solomon, Kinseiy Hogan, and Manushi Tanna.

“I was intrigued because it was a prequel to Peter Pan and I’ve done Peter Pan twice at different schools, but this is so incredibly creative… it scared the daylights out of me,” said Foreman.
That doesn’t happen much. Foreman has been directing high school productions since the mid-1980s, and he has been with Linden Hall since 2001. The venerable director grew up in Lititz and started his career working with the Grace Brethren Church and Lancaster Bible College. “After directing that long I wanted a challenge, and this is every bit of one,” said Foreman of “Starcatcher.”
The trick with “Starcatcher” is the play is written for a group of actors who are storytellers.

The show is described by rightsholder Music Theatre International as “featuring a dozen actors portraying more than 100 unforgettable characters…(using) ingenious stagecraft and the limitless possibilities of imagination to bring the story to life.” “They take on different roles, becoming not only actors but part of the set, part of the physical magic,” said Foreman.

The show, which does include a few musical numbers — the most notable at the beginning of the second act — and contains whimsical dialogue, which bounces from actor to actor. Most students are familiar with being assigned a role and become invested in a single character, said Foreman. In “Starcatcher,” students must go beyond a traditional character.
“They really have to be on their toes because they finish each other’s sentences in some cases,” said Foreman. “They are called upon to play a role and then all of a sudden become a narrator then go back into their role again.”

Berns, who plays Boy (who eventually becomes Peter Pan) is a Lititz resident and sophomore at Linden Hall. “She has been taking on major roles for me ever since she was in middle school. She is just a gutsy little actress,” said Foreman. The lone female character is Molly (Lily Chow), who turns out to be the mother of Wendy Darling, who we meet as a little girl in the story of Peter Pan. Molly is a rascally and headstrong young lady. She aids Boy in his earliest adventure but must leave their blossoming relationship as the now Peter Pan decides to stay in Neverland.

“This is her first major role. She appeared in our fall play, but this is her first real major role on our stage. She is quite good, and I am excited to see her branching out,” said Foreman. “I prefer to do ensemble pieces rather than shows that are star heavy, and this show is all over the charts. But, because Boy and Molly are so key to the story I mention them immediately.”

Rounding out the cast of “Starcatcher” at Linden Hall are: Kinsey Hogan as Lord Leonard Aster; Anika Monteforte as Mrs. Bumbrake; Sarah Quiros as Captain Robert Falcon Scott; and Audrey Weinlader as Grempkin. The Seafarers are played by Delaney Redford, Meredith Longer, Chloe Hain, Julianna Mack, and Izzy Hardin. The Neverland Natives are comprised of Cathy Liu and Calista Jenkins, with Anna Quiros, Tessa Carroll, Te-Ojah Dennison-Morgan, and Serena Monteforte as pirates and Mollusks. In the aforementioned opening of the second act theatregoers meet Manushi Tanna as The Mermaid Teacher. “’Peter and the Starcatcher’ was very popular when it was onstage in New York, and since then it has become one of the most popular shows to do in high school,” said Foreman.

Foreman has never seen the show on stage, and that is how he likes it. This allows him to add his own creativity as he reads the script. One of his challenges as a director is working on the Linden Hall stage, which is a small, Proscenium-arched venue, seating 186 people. “It’s great for plays. It’s very intimate. This was a handful, I mean the show opens with two sailing ships onstage. And there’s a shipwreck!” said Foreman, who adds the show is open to the public. “I love, love, love this show. It has humor and it is very poignant at the end. It has a universal theme.”

Performances of “Peter and the Starcatcher” are April 5, 6 and 7 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $5 for students and $10 for adults.

Tickets are available by calling the school at 717-626-8512 or emailing Rebekah Shaw at rshaw@lindenhall.org. Once reserved, ticket orders cannot be changed. Reserved tickets must be picked up prior to 7:30 p.m. the night of the show.

Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He welcomes comments at somepromcu@gmail.com and facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions. 

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