I’ve never been to a Broadway show or even an off-Broadway show, but the rendition of classic Peter Pan given by students at Chocachatti Elementary School on Monday, May 8 could give any of these venues a run for their money.
Under the direction of teachers Rhonda Bowers, Irmarie Kraft and Nancy Kraus, the cast of “dozens,” made up of third through fifth graders performed on a professional level – proof that seven months of three-times-a-week rehearsals paid off.
The students gave four performances of the play – two in the afternoon for fellow students and two in the evening for family and friends.
For many of the cast this was not their “first rodeo.” Some of the performers have been in plays at the school in previous years.
“I want to make acting a career. I like to play adventurous, active parts,” the fifth grader stated.
For ten-year old Andrew Clarkson, who played the villainous Captain Hook, this was his first foray into acting.
“It feels awesome. I’m not nervous. We just did a show an hour ago for the other kids.”
Eleven year-old Ella Neesham also wants to be an actor when she grows up. She played the part of Wendy, complete with a “spot on” British accent.
“I practiced my accent when I played a vulture in The Jungle Book” [a previous Chocachatti production].
Although the students rehearse during school hours, that doesn’t mean that they get to “skip” classes. They are also expected to complete all their homework assignments.
Other than the actors playing main characters, most of the students played more than one part.
Eleven year old Rebekah Driggers stated, “Since I’ve been in the show, they [the directors] know I can do stuff so they put me in good parts. I’m a fairy, a cloud and an Indian. I have to get changed three times in one scene.”
“I get to play a fairy, an Indian, dance and sing a solo.”
The directors found a creative way to handle stage props. Third grader Luke Redmile, dressed as a palm tree, held microphones up for the students and moved scenery.
Peter Pan, Junior was a joint effort of students, staff, community, parents and even grandparents.
Ms. Rhonda Bowers, Dance teacher and co-director stated, “Ana Rodriguez, a grandparent of one of the actors designed and made the costumes. We’re grateful to have her on board with us. She has been nominated as volunteer of the year and is up for district volunteer of the year.”
Many other people worked on the beautiful make-up and creative sets. Besides props, the stage set was back lit with Power Point slides to represent a tropical island. The production was partly funded by a grant from the Hernando County Arts Council.
As professionally well-done and creative as Peter Pan, Junior was, one can only imagine how Chocachatti is going to top this next year.