Peter and the Starcatcher: belonging and family

Zac VanderLey– Staff Writer

Photo Credit: Robin Suing

The cast of Peter and the Starcatcher sat in the Te Paske theater in preparation for a nighttime rehearsal. Teresa Ter Haar, the director, and stage manager Hannah Vanderhooft called the eleven-person cast up to the stage and they warmed up with a clapping game, stretching, and breathing exercises. The auditorium filled with laughter as they played the Starfish game, running up to another person, jumping in the air, and screaming.

“It [the play] is just silly,” Ter Haar said. “We all just need a little silly in our lives.”

Peter and the Starcatcher marks the first musical the Dordt University theater department will showcase since My Fair Lady in 2018. Based on the book of the same title written by Dave Parry and Ridley Pearson, Peter and the Starcatcher comes to the stage over Defender Days. Tickets are still available for purchase on Dordt’s website.

The set, designed by theater professor Laurel Koerner, features wooden docks, ladder units, and treasure chest crates inspired by the wooden playground. The pier posts keep the rustic, seafarer aesthetic while the other parts of the set “invite childlike movement from the actors,” Koerner said.

In the second act, fishing nets with a gauzy texture resemble clouds, sails of ships, or waves depending on the lighting. A leafy material is woven and draped around the docks and pier posts, creating a sense of vegetation.

The play features a small, ensemble-based cast, where all the actors are constantly on stage. Many actors play multiple characters and make use of creative props. The production features a collection of new actors, non-theater majors, veteran performers, and actors making their mainstage debut.

Photo Credit: Robin Suing

Sommer Schaap, a junior theater major, plays Molly Aster in what will be her first mainstage production at Dordt University. She’s acted in student-directed productions before: The Haunted and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern, though Rosencrantz & Guildenstern was never performed live due to COVID-19. 

“It develops me as a person by being able to relate to certain characters and take on that persona…to tell a story to the audience,” Schaap said about theatre.

At age three, Schapp participated in high school improv because her dad helped lead units, and treasure chest crates inspired by the wooden playground. The pier posts keep the rustic, seafarer aesthetic while the other parts of the set “invite childlike movement from the actors,” Koerner said.

In the second act, fishing nets with a gauzy texture resemble clouds, sails of ships, or waves depending on the lighting. A leafy material is woven and draped around the docks and pier posts, creating a sense of vegetation.

The play features a small, ensemble-based cast, where all the actors are constantly on stage. Many actors play multiple characters and make use of creative props. The production features a collection of new actors, non-theater majors, veteran performers, and actors making their mainstage debut.

Sommer Schaap, a junior theater major, plays Molly Aster in what will be her first mainstage production at Dordt University. She’s acted in student-directed productions before: The Haunted and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern, though Rosencrantz & Guildenstern was never performed live due to COVID-19. 

Photo Credit: Robin Suing

“It develops me as a person by being able to relate to certain characters and take on that persona…to tell a story to the audience,” Schaap said about theatre.

At age three, Schapp participated in high school improv because her dad helped lead the troupe. While she performed in the typical kindergarten productions of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, in fifth grade her local high school needed a young Mowgli for The Jungle Book. Schaap accepted the role. Once she reached high school, she said she “did everything with theater.”

“I have a hard time keeping a straight face,” Schaap said about her time onstage. “I keep rediscovering things that are funny, and I laugh about it.”

Peter and the Starcatcher is similar to Disney’s Peter Pan, but the show contains slightly different characters with more advanced content and humor. Hans Dykstra, a senior engineering major plays Lord Leonard Aster, Molly’s father. Dykstra’s theatre roots run deep. His father attended Dordt because of its Christian theatre department. And, although Dykstra’s mom didn’t attend Dordt, she minored in theater and met Dykstra’s father in a four-person production.

“I’m here because of theater,” Dykstra said.

In a particular scene, Schaap trust falls off the ship’s deck into the waiting arms of her castmates. They carry her around, simulating the act of flying, until they reach the other dock, which they guide her up onto.

“[Peter and the Starcatcher] challenges us to consider that family can be more than the group of individuals that you are born into,” Ter Haar said.

At the end of the three-hour rehearsal period, Schaap recites this line: “And may we go on and on, dear nanna, as long children are young and innocent, (and rude and juvenile and heartless), past all the jostles of life till’ we fly back home.”

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