Post-Show Activity with the Audiences of Peter Pan

January 8, 2010

By Matthew Decker, Associate Producer

Following each performance of Peter Pan, our Children’s Theatre audience has a special opportunity to learn more about the play they’ve just seen. The cast members come back on stage and take questions from the audience. These questions (or comments) range from observant to witty to insightful to observant – and the average age of our audience is about seven.

When the Arden began producing children’s theatre twelve years ago, we knew hosting these question and answer sessions would further the experience of the young audiences. Borrowing this question and answer format from a similar program at Seattle Children’s Theatre, the children’s theatre actors answer each question truthfully, and give away ALL the secrets. If they ask a question about they way that a set piece moves, our crew will come out and show them how to move it. If they ask a question about a magic trick performed during the show, an actor will explain how it’s done.

What’s incredible to witness during these question and answer sessions is how children as audience members, more so than adults, see and hear EVERYTHING. Nothing slips by them – their imaginations are so active that they are willing to accept that, for instance, in Peter Pan, a puppet made of kitchen utensils and a mop, is actually a Lost Boy. And they want to know how this puppet made of kitchen utensils was constructed. And they’ll also be the first to tell you if they didn’t believe something that an actor did onstage OR if they thought a moment lacked in originality. Nothing will keep a play fresh and honest more than performing for an audience of children.

Our Stage Manager, Stephanie Cook, has been recording a favorite question at each performance. I thought I’d share some of the questions with you.

“How do you get to do a play?”

“What world does the set represent?”

“When you guys are holding puppets, are you invisible?”

“What would be Peter do if nobody believed in fairies?” [Referring to the moment where Tink drinks the poison and the audience has to revive her by stating that they do believe in fairies.]

“Is Captain Hook really a mean guy?”

“Why did Wendy go to Neverland with Peter?”

“What was the hardest part to practice?”

“How long does it take Peter to get into character for each performance?”

“Why doesn’t Peter have a green hat?”

“Is the hook real or fake?”

“How did the shadows look like they were flying?”

“Why were there only 6 actors for all the different characters in the show?”

“Where was John in this play?”

“How do you not laugh at the funny parts?”

“Does Hook have a mother?”

For many of these children, seeing Peter Pan is the first time they have experienced live theatre. I feel like I am watching future theatre audiences being born right in front of my eyes. Watching their reactions to what they’ve seen, and then enhancing that experience by interacting and asking questions of the actors, is building our audiences of the future.

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