OGDEN — Acting has been a learning experience for the young cast of “Peter Pan,” a show produced by the Ogden School District with support from RAMP.
“I was having a hard time acting like a man and a pirate,” said Jazmin James, 14 and from Highland Junior High, as she stood, twirling the hairs of her fake beard. “But then I got into my makeup and I got to see how hideous I was, and it got a lot easier.”
Jazmin plays a pirate named Cookson in the nonmusical original adaptation of the J.M. Barrie book about a boy who wouldn’t grow up. The show opens Wednesday and continues through Saturday at Ogden High School.
“I learned to let go, and be less reserved,” said Winter Owens, 13, who attends North Ogden Junior High, and plays pirate Cecce. “I get to be stuck up. I think I’m the most handsome pirate of them all.”
Shaylee Delgato, 14, learned to walk the walk and talk the talk.
“I watched my dad to get the male stance down,” said Shaylee, who plays Hook and Mr. Darling, and who attends Roy Junior High. “I lower my voice. And men use their whole body to express themselves. Girls are more reserved.”
Director Carolyn Stevens learned to improvise when more girls than boys signed up for the play. Most of the lost boys are played by boys, and Peter Pan is played by a boy.
“Some of the girls were shy when we started out,” Stevens said. “They were used to being quiet little things, and I made them walk funny and screw their faces up. I had quite a time getting them to work on that.”
But the lessons from theater go far beyond swagger.
“They’re learning to look out for each other, not just for Number One,” Stevens said. “They are aware of the environment around them and when to help and when to get out of the way. They are learning to cooperate backstage, and when to be quiet and when to be loud. They are learning to listen, and to be confident in what they do.”
The 30 students who signed up have been practicing 12 hours a week and have also learned about the stage, said producer Joyce Wilson.
“These students have been learning about theater, the various names of the stage areas, names of the different types of curtains, theater terminology, how to develop their characters and how to project their words and lines to an audience.”
Avrie Hull, 15, of Roy High, has learned the art of the quick change.
“I start out as very feminine, as Mrs. Darling, then I come back as a dirty pirate,” she said. “In my last pirate scene I die, then have to come back in the next scene cleaned up and dressed as Mrs. Darling. I go from slippers to combat boots and back.”
Thirteen-year-old Garrett Barton has learned to get inside the (costume) skin of the crocodile that taunts Captain Hook.
“It’s a neat character, a crocodile that’s supposed to be fun,” said Garrett, a Mount Ogden Junior High student. “I pretend I’m cool. If anything goes wrong, you just pretend it was part of your plan. That can work in regular life, too. And acting is good for meeting people and expressing yourself. It can make you a better speaker. I wish more people would try it. ”
Ace Nichols, 8 and a student at Lomond View Elementary, plays the title role.
“Peter Pan is a big, fun character, and he does cartwheels and somersaults,” he said. “He doesn’t want to work and stop doing fun stuff. I had to get used to facing one direction and talking loud.”
And what was Shaylee’s take-away lesson, for theater and for life:
“No matter what, be loud, have fun, and don’t be scared.”