01-29-14-pan-the-inside-story.gifThe Gilbert Theater’s first show of 2014 is a new spin on Peter Pan’s adventures in Neverland. It is written by local playwright, Jeremy Fiebig, and directed by Pittsburgh guest artist, Mellissa Hill Grande. Pan tells three stories: the childhood of Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie and his inspiration for his classic Peter and Wendy stories; the story of a modern-day Wendy whose father is on deployment in Afghanistan and whose mother seems to be lost on the home front; and a new Neverland adventure — Peter and Captain Hook’s search for the Crimson Heart, a jewel of inestimable worth. Each of the stories collide, shatter and are stitched together again in a tale full of heartbreak, adventure, magic, mermaids and fairies.

Jeremy Fiebig explains, “We chose to tackle Pan after considering doing Peter Pan as part of the season — in part because we wanted a show that featured some younger actors. In talks through the spring, we settled on an adaptation that would freshen the Pan story and which would be tailor-made for the space. In writing Pan, one of the considerations for me was that I didn’t want to do something that had already been done in Peter Pan adaptations already, including Hook, Finding Neverland and Broadway’s Peter and the Starcatcher. As I read the Pan stories and how they are centered around the idea of childhood, I wondered what the author’s childhood must have been like. I did some reading and found in J.M. Barrie’s childhood some inspiration for the Peter and Wendy stories and went from there.

Local actress and mother, Marie Lowe, is playing the role of the mother whose husband is deployed. She provides us with an inside story of the action to include the challenges and rewards inherent in debuting a new work. “Pan takes three distinct times and places — the 19th century Scotland of author J.M. Barrie’s childhood, modern-day America and of course, Neverland — and weaves one story out of these seemingly disparate worlds. As a performer, it’s a treat to get to travel between worlds, families, costumes and accents — where else can you be a mother struggling with a family trauma and a lecherous, sauce-pot-wielding pirate all in the same night? I think the show will also appeal to the widest possible audience, as there’s truly something for everyone.

The creative team behind Pan has done a wonderful job. The stage is filled with “found objects” that are used throughout the worlds, so a hockey stick in one world is a sword in another. It creates exactly the playful quality that Peter and the Lost Boys embody, and it engages the audience’s imagination and brings them in on the jokes. As a mother who’s read the story and seen the movie with my kids, I can’t wait for them to see Pan. My 11-year-old daughter has read the script twice, and is constantly asking things like, ‘What does Tinkerbell look like? How are they going to make that trick work? Will there be mermaids?’ And my whole family is working on a Scottish accent.”

Pan opens on Jan. 31 and continues through Feb. 16, Friday – Sunday (Friday and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.). Mild language, viewer discretion is advised. Tickets are $16 for general admission; ask about military and senior discounts. For more information or to buy tickets email the box office at boxoffice@gilberttheater.com or call 678-7186 or order tickets online.

Photo: Paul Sunao Hovey, Sonja Sorady Shah, Madyson Lawrence and Marie Lowe rehearsing for Gilbert Theater’s upcoming production of Pan.

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