Neverland Players bring childhood back

Lily Bohlke

bohlkeli@grinnell.edu

Images from the wild and creative minds of children, including chocolate that turns into giraffes and political slam ads for a dragon, will come to life onstage during the production by Neverland Players this weekend.

In the Neverland Players, a student-run theatre group, cast members take stories that third graders from Davis Elementary School have written and turn them into skits for an hour-long performance, while keeping as many of the elements from the original story as possible.

minh tran The Neverland Players is geared toward children, which allows the actors to portray larger than life characters and imaginative ideas.  Photo by Minh Tran

minh tran
The Neverland Players is geared toward children, which allows the actors to portray larger than life characters and imaginative ideas. Photo by Minh Tran

 

This semester’s directors, Phoebe Mogharei ’16 and Gabe Lehman ’16, went to the elementary school as well as Grinnell Arts Council’s Free Imagination Fridays to find stories. A third grade teacher set aside time in her class for her students to write stories to submit, and Imagination Fridays have creative activities including story writing.

The show’s process begins with team building and practicing turning stories into skits.

“We try to find fun and exciting ways to perform the piece while still holding true to the actual storyline,” said Sarah McCarthy ’19. “When you’re handed a story about a dragon or an eggplant, you have to find a way to be super enthusiastic about it, otherwise it won’t make any sense.”

Getting to know the cast early on in the process is a great aspect of being a part of Neverland, according to Mogharei.

“We spend a lot of time getting in an environment where we’re comfortable doing really silly things together,” she said.

Neverland is an incredibly high-energy, intense process but also filled with the fun of childhood, according to McCarthy. The cast often reflects on what it was like to be a child.

“I have a lot of child-like energy in life, so it’s fun to talk about weird things we did when we were kids,” said Hannah Lundberg ’18.

Although Neverland is geared towards audiences of any age, a major focus is on young children, including the authors of the stories. As children’s theatre, there are differences between the setup of Neverland as opposed to traditional theatre.

“Traditional theatre is subtle when introducing a character,” said Lukas Resch ’19. “In Neverland, you walk on stage and say, ‘I am a giraffe. I am looking for oranges.’”

While the shows are made so young kids can understand them, there are jokes for parents, community members and college students as well, according to Lundberg.

Because of this, audience reactions are varied. Some themes will get the adults in the audience laughing, whereas other skits will call reactions from the youngest children.

“One year, there was a show about dogs and a group of young kids came and crawled on the floor participating,” Mogharei said.

Ultimately, the Neverland Players’ mission is to see children’s imaginations honored and brought to life.

“It’s really rewarding to see a child’s story that you read being performed with a lot of love,” Mogharei said. “It’s really exciting for us.”

The Neverland Players performances will be Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.