‘Starcatcher’ answers questions in children’s tales
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