Summer/Fall Season 2017

peter and the starcatcher american shakespeare center


Take part in the adventure and embrace the endless possibilities of imagination in this action-packed coming-of-age prequel to Peter Pan. The five-time Tony-winning Broadway hit, ideally suited for the signature ASC style, brings to life the heart-warming and richly imaginative story of how Neverland and Peter Pan came to life. Filled with music, mermaids, a celestial treasure, a spunky leading lady, a band of wacky pirates, an island crawling with intrigue, and one absurdly wicked Captain, Peter and the Starcatcher will make you fly.

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Director's Note

When my teenage daughter was four years old, she went through a major Peter Pan phase. I picked up J.M. Barrie’s original 1904 play and every Peter book, movie, and game I could get my hands on. We read books out loud, we acted them out; we dove into the waters and flew through the air on our couches and chairs and beds, in search of adventures in Neverland. The magical stories about the boy who wouldn’t grow up set our imaginations ablaze and gave us great big gobs of fun. One of the novels I found was Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Berry and Ridly Pearson. As my kid and I began reading it, I realized pretty quickly that this amazing book was a bit too “old” for me and my four-year-old. I ended up reading it on my own and falling in love with the brave and mysterious Molly as she befriends a nameless orphan Boy and they both discover how Starstuff will make you what you want to be.

This play, based on that novel, shows us how a nameless kid becomes the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. The way Starcatcher vibes off of J.M. Barrie’s original Peter Pan play and novel is quite similar to the principles behind our new project: Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries.

But the structure and style of this play (and our production) does more than provide a vehicle for a Peter Pan prequel, it’s also about imagination and community – the Starstuff that permeates what the ASC has been doing for twenty-nine years. Starcatcher playwright, Rick Elise, writes the following in the Production Handbook that goes out to the companies who produce this play:

“We wanted to make sure the play would reflect what all of us love most about the theatre – a sense of being a part of something bigger than yourself. Community. We begin with a mob of actors…a community waiting to happen, and we end it with those same people, back with a purpose – to lift Peter up in flight. And we know it’s the beginning of something.

“It’s that collective strength and community purpose – your community here – that I hope you’ll remember. It’s what this play is about, but it’s also what theatre is for – why we love and need it so. Since 2007, Peter and the Starcatcher has traveled across the country, to Broadway and beyond. And its magic has traveled intact ¬– the result of years of collaboration, ingenuity, family, and love. However you do it, make sure your do it for one another, for family, for community. Trust me, that’s the secret to staying (or at lease feeling) young forever.”

This “story theatre” play is perfectly suited for the ASC, our use of Shakespeare’s Staging Conditions, and Shakespeare’s Theatre of Imagination. It’s tailor-made for families and the kid inside us all who craves adventure and a place to belong.


Stuff that happens in the play
  • A troupe of actors addresses the audience.
  • At the docks in Victorian England, a schoolmaster ushers three orphan boys (Ted, Prentiss, and a nameless Boy) aboard the disheveled Neverland, a ship bound for the court of the evil King Zarboff.
  • The distinguished Lord Aster, who is boarding the neighboring (and much more impressive) ship, the Wasp, sees his daughter Molly and her nanny Mrs. Bumbrake aboard the Neverland.
  • Slank, the vicious captain of the Neverland, switches a trunk destined for the Wasp to the decks of the Neverland.
  • Molly and the mysterious Boy lock eyes on deck.
  • Aboard the Neverland, Molly and the orphan boys realize the ship is much more dangerous than it appeared. Molly sneaks out of her cabin after Alf, a kind-hearted and romantic sailor, and discovers the orphan boys stashed below deck.
  • Meanwhile, a band of pirates, led by the wildly wicked Black Stache, has taken control of the Wasp.
  • Molly realizes her father is in trouble; then she and the orphans see a flying cat. The orphans try to get Molly to explain what’s going on, but she distracts them by telling a story.
  • On the Wasp, Stache realizes the treasure he’s been seeking on this ship has been moved to the Neverland.
  • The Boy spies Molly on deck communicating with her father and pries her secret out of her: she and her father are Starcatchers, and they’re protecting a magical treasure – Starstuff.
  • Slank discovers the Boy on deck and throws him overboard. Molly swims him to safety.
  • Stache attacks the Neverland in search of the treasure. Lightning hits the ship, splits it in half, and it begins to sink.
  • The Boy tries to protect the trunk from Stache, but Stache tries to woo him to the pirate’s life, starting with offering him a good pirate name – Peter. The Boy takes Peter as his name.
  • The ship goes down, and everyone escapes to a nearby island.
  • Mermaids, Mollusks, flying crocodiles, and growing up ensue.