‘Star­catcher’ an­swers ques­tions in chil­dren’s tales

The Record (Troy, NY) - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Bob Goepfert

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. » Have you ever won­dered how Peter Pan could fly, or been cu­ri­ous about the ori­gins of Cap­tain Hook and how he lost his hand? Ever pon­dered how Tinker­belle and the Lost Boys found their way into the clas­sic J.M. Bar­rie story about the boy who wouldn’t grow up?

Then you will be fas­ci­nated by the play “Peter and the Star­catcher.” It an­swers all those ques­tions and more. You might even discover how Mer­maids came to be.

The whim­si­cal play, which won sev­eral Tony Awards when it played on Broad­way in 2012, opens Saturday and plays week­ends at Home Made Theatre in Saratoga Springs through Oc­to­ber 29.

Di­rect­ing is Bob Bere­nis, who calls the work “a play with mu­sic.” He makes the point that “Peter and the Star­catcher” is the­ater that can be en­joyed by the en­tire fam­ily, but he is firm in say­ing “it is not chil­dren’s the­ater.”

He ex­plains say­ing, “The young­sters will get the broad phys­i­cal com­edy in the show. (Like a group of men danc­ing dressed as Mer­maids.) He also says the young­sters, as well as the adults, will en­joy the comic ex­changes be­tween the pi­rate Black Stache and Smee. But he adds, “The play has its se­ri­ous side as well. That’s for the adults in the au­di­ence.”

That the play has ap­peal for the en­tire assem­bly is one of the things that drew Bere­nis to the ma­te­rial. He re­calls what a teacher told him years ago when he stud­ied at the Ac­tors Stu­dio in New York. He said, “Peo­ple’s imag­i­na­tion peak at about the age of five. By the time we are teenagers it has to­tally dis­ap­peared. The beauty of this play is it per­mits adults and young peo­ple to be kids again.”

Bere­nis points out that di­rect­ing the play re­quires find­ing and keep­ing the bal­ance in per­for­mance. “It’s re­ally a com­pli­cated work to stage. It has so many mov­ing parts. Even when it looks like noth­ing seems to make sense, it al­ways has to make sense to the ac­tors. A lot of the stuff that hap­pens on stage seems im­pro­vised, but it is re­ally struc­tured.”

He says, as a direc­tor, his goal is “to be sure the pre­sen­ta­tion has the free­dom of spirit that adds joy to the work, with­out los­ing the dis­ci­pline it needs so it doesn’t seem in­dul­gent or undis­ci­plined.”

The idea of keep­ing one’s imag­i­na­tion alive through the­ater has been his av­o­ca­tion for about 20 years. This is Bere­nis’ first time di­rect­ing at Home Made The­ater, but he has been an im­por­tant di­rec­to­rial pres­ence in Saratoga for al­most two decades. For the past 18 years Bere­nis has been the vol­un­teer direc­tor for the Saratoga Springs High School Drama Club. He points out that for those 18 years the club has been awarded 14 first or sec­ond place fin­ishes at the an­nual Sch­enec­tady Light Opera Com­pany an­nual high school mu­si­cals com­pe­ti­tions.

He, of course, takes great pride in that ac­com­plish­ment. How­ever, he says his goal is not awards. “The tal­ent of the kids is what wins awards. If I have any­thing to be proud of - it is that I helped cre­ate an au­di­ence for the­ater. The stu­dents who par­tic­i­pate in our

pro­duc­tions learn many in­valu­able life lessons. But for some­one who is pas­sion­ate about the­ater, I am proud

that all those kids not only learn to love the process, but be­come bet­ter au­di­ences be­cause of their par­tic­i­pa­tion.”

That pride and joy of in­tro­duc­ing young peo­ple to the­ater found root in his home life. Chore­ograph­ing “Peter and the Star­catcher”

is his daugh­ter Leigh Bere­nis. “I trust her work. She has this great abil­ity to chore­o­graph a dance that is spe­cific for the skill of ev­ery in­di­vid­ual in the num­ber, he says.”

His pride for his daugh­ter’s skill is ob­vi­ous. But

it bursts through the tele­phone as he points out that daugh­ter Leigh is the ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Saratoga Chil­dren’s Theatre. The fam­ily legacy of bringing the joy of the­ater to younger au­di­ences con­tin­ues.

You can share that child­like

en­thu­si­asm for the next three week­ends as “Peter and the Star­catcher” plays at Home Made The­ater in Saratoga Springs. For tick­ets and sched­ule in­for­ma­tion, call (518) 587-4427 or go to home­madethe­ater. org.

Molly and the or­phans

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