Chatting with the Stars of 'Peter and the Starcatcher'
Megan Stern (Molly) and Luke Smith (Smee)
Peter and the Starcatcher, the musical play that serves as a prequel to the story of Peter Pan, has arrived at the Wharton Center this week through Sunday, January 26.
The Tony Award-winning show features a dynamic cast of a dozen actors, including Megan Stern as Molly and Luke Smith as Smee.
I had the opportunity to chat with Megan and Luke prior to opening night to discuss the show, their fun pre-show rituals, and the relationship they've had with the story of Peter Pan.
STEFANIE POHL: Some might not be familiar with the story of Peter and the Starcatcher, other than knowing its relation to Peter Pan. How would you explain the show in your own words?
LUKE SMITH: We try to succinctly describe it as the prequel story to Peter Pan. It's an ensemble cast of 12 of us, and we cover over 100 different characters. We tell this origin story in a comedic, stylistic kind of way. Very vaudevillian, a little Monty Python, and it explains how Peter Pan became Peter Pan. How he arrived on the island Neverland, how he found the ability to fly. It's about two and a half hours of mad, comedic, craziness that explains that story.
POHL: Luke, you play the character Smee, who is a familiar character. Megan, you play Molly - how does she fit into the story of Peter Pan?
MEGAN STERN: Molly's an unknown to the Peter Pan story. She's this young girl who's super precocious and strong and adventurous. Through chance, she meets the boy who becomes Peter on a ship. Through adventures and friendship, she helps lead Peter Pan into the heroic character we know him to be.
POHL: As you said, there are a dozen people in the cast, but each of you play multiple characters. How does that work in the story?
SMITH: We all kind of do [play different characters], some more than others, certainly. But when you're not in your scene as your character, you're playing a supporting role. Whether it's the mollusks or helping with parts of the set. At one point I'm holding poles that are part of a cage, but later on they become something else. We're all onstage the whole time, passing the baton from one actor to the next in terms of who pushes the story forward.
STERN: I play Molly most of the time, but I really enjoy the few moments when I get to play a scurvy pirate or a sailor or a mollusk. Those are fun moments for me.
POHL: Because everyone is working together, it must create a good group dynamic among the cast members. What is the camaraderie like between the cast?
SMITH: I think it's definitely built into the experience. For awhile at the beginning of the process, every day before the performance, we'd do a circle-up to get in touch and talk to each other. We'd work out things if need-be. It's a good example of how everything is on an even playing field. I think that is a special part about this production.
POHL: Other than gathering with the cast before the shows, do you have any personal pre-show rituals?
SMITH: We all have our things.
STERN: I do some vocal and physical warm ups. I try to get in touch with my character - if I'm feeling tired that day - and how much I love playing her and how much of a good role model she is. I like to think about that before I go on.
SMITH: I've been trying to start a trend - it doesn't catch on, but if you've ever seen "The Mighty Ducks," I've tried to do the "quack, quack, quack" thing. I do it about five times and maybe once someone else in the cast will do it.
POHL: Growing up, the film "Hook" was always my reference for Peter Pan. What was your relationship with the story of Peter Pan?
STERN: It's really special for me. I love Peter Pan. When I was a kid I watched the Mary Martin musical on loop, and my first play in preschool was Peter Pan. I tried to convince my teacher to let me play Peter Pan because it's traditionally played by a woman. I was shot down, but I dressed up as Peter Pan that Halloween in retaliation.
SMITH: Peter Pan, both the Mary Martin musical and "Hook" were big parts of my childhood. My younger brother was involved in theater before I was, and when I was 13 he was 11 and in a community production of the Mary Martin Peter Pan. He was one of the Lost Boys and I saw it maybe 13 times. I was too shy to pursue theater at that time, but I remember falling in love with it. Whenever I see the movie, I get very nostalgic. It's certainly a part of my DNA.
Catch Peter and the Starcatcher at the Wharton Center through January 26th. Visit www.whartoncenter.com for more information.
Click here for my review of this fantastic show!