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The Scarlet & Black

Neverland players all about the kids

I walked into the Hole in the Wall Theater and was immediately overcome by the noise of ecstatic actors practicing their skits, projecting more energy than I could ever imagine having at 7 p.m. on a Monday night.

These actors were in the midst of rehearsing this weekend’s production of The Neverland Players, directed by Kate Whitman ’14 and Ben Tape ’12.

The Neverland cast practices one of their improvisational skits during a five-hour rehearsal session this week. Photograph by Joanna Silverman

For those who don’t know, Neverland is a group on campus that converts short stories by kids in grades 3-7 into hilarious, hilarious all-age skits in only five weeks. According to Whitman, along with their talent, what makes the actors so invigorating is the improvisational aspect of the skits.

“There is … the improv element to Neverland, which makes everything seem alive,” Whitman said. “I don’t remember ever seeing more than one show per run, which I think is sort of the exciting part of Neverland.”

This improvisational element is emphasized throughout the entire rehearsal process. The actors never actually receive a script. When the directors first obtain the stories from Davis Elementary School, they divide the cast into groups of three or four actors and distribute a different story to each group. Each collective then has 20 minutes to brainstorm how to transform the story into a sketch, creatively changing as little or as much from the original story as desired. When the groups come back together, they perform their newly-developed skits. The revision process is made up of a creative back and forth between directors and actors, generating a deep-seeded love for the project everyone helped develop.

Not only are the skits humorous, but each one is also “touching [or] heartfelt,” said Whitman, who describes the lyrics written by the actors to the tune of a Muppet’s song “phenomenal” and “definitely heart-breaking.”

This whole week, members of Neverland have been rehearsing their skits for five hours per day. Despite the lack of time available for homework and sleep, as well as the hard work needed to put on the show, Tape and Whitman explain that directing Neverland is a fun and nice break from academic stresses.

What makes the directors even more eager to venture into the Hole is the inspirational group of actors, and the exciting energy that emerges from the collective work.
“[The actors] are very dedicated, but they’re also just extremely fun-loving. It’s just a great combination,” Whitman said.

In addition to a love of fun, the directors explain that trust is the most important element to produce great Neverland skits.

“We have to be comfortable being weird and crazy,” Tape said.

Although the members of Neverland enjoy working with one another, Tape acknowledges that their main purpose is to promote a creative spirit amongst elementary school students. Former Neverland director and current actress Amanda Borson ’13 maintains that every semester they try to pick stories from different student-authors to give each individual a chance to see his/her story come alive. Tape and Whitman explained that the authors of the performed skits are always thrilled to experience the unforgettable joy of seeing their story acted out by college students.

“We’ll … ask if there are any of the authors in the crowd. And we bring them up and they take a bow with us. I mean … when they come and take that bow with a bunch of college kids, you can just tell it’s a monumental moment for them,” Tape said. “I mean if I did something like that when I was a kid, I would remember it. … It’s one of those moments where you really realize what this is [all] for … it’s really for the kids.”

Neverland performances are at 7 p.m. on Friday; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday; and 2 p.m. on Sunday.

If you cannot get tickets from the box office in Bucksbaum because the shows are sold out, the Neverland crew encourages you to get on the waiting list 30 to 45 minutes before show time.

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