Director Nick Olcott was intrigued when he learned that playwright Patrick Flynn had a different take on the Peter Pan stories, a new play written from Tinker Bell’s point of view.
Michael Bobbitt chose the aptly-titled Tinker Bell to close out Adventure Theatre’s 2017-18 season, and Olcott was quick to jump on board.
“I’ve had a friendship with Michael for decades and have worked with him on a number of projects, so when Patrick came to him with the script, he thought of me,” the director says. “I was very lucky because I wasn’t aware of this work and I’ve been totally won over to him as a playwright because of this.”
“What’s so wonderful is that it takes a very well-known story and reveals a whole new side of it,” Olcott says. “Tinker Bell is ironically one of the most popular characters from the story—a lot of people dress up like her for Halloween—but her side of the story and what her investment is has never really been explored in the other adaptations.”
No longer an appendage to Peter Pan, Tinker Bell presents a serious look at why Tink hung out with the Boy Who Doesn’t Want to Grow Up in the first place and how she became his partner in adventure.
“It’s a very interesting, human and relevant story because it talks about the nature of friendship and what we do when our friends make us mad,” Olcott says. “I think that’s a lesson that all of us can take something from.”
Peter Pan fans need not worry—all your favorite characters are represented in the play: Wendy, the Lost Boys, Peter Pan, Smee and the nefarious Hook.
“My concept is that this is a group of Edwardian-era children who have gotten together to play this story,” Olcott says. “They are inventing it on the fly, coming up with the ideas on how to do things, and jumping in to play the characters.”
Michelle Polera takes on the title role and every other member of the cast takes on multiple roles. Carlos Castillo plays Peter Pan, Peter Boyer as Captain Hook, Topher Williams as Smee and Meghan Abdo as Wendy. There are also two ensemble members and a collection of puppets representing the pirates and Lost Boys.
“The seven people are on stage almost non-stop, always doing something, and Michelle is the only one who stays herself all the way through,” Olcott says. And because Olcott loves doing plays that are low-tech—things that kids can do at home without special effects and machinery—he wanted someone who was athletically gifted and found that in Polera.
at Adventure Theatre MTC
June 22 – August 20, 2018
Details and tickets
“Her day job is a fitness instructor and she is as fit as can be,” he says. “In addition, I realized Tinker Bell needs to have an acidic wit—she is always on the side looking in on the story and making very direct and to-the-point comments on what’s going on. Michelle, from the very first moment I met her in the audition, had that sharp wit and just a little bit of ironic distance that makes Tinker Bell so incredible interesting.”
Olcott is always excited to be part of something aimed at young theater goers and feels it’s more important than ever to present things to children.
“We are in a world that is dividing us into individual cells with electronic screens in front of us all day. Many are wearing earplugs, too, so they are living in a bubble,” he says. “Most of our entertainment is individual now, and I think it’s so important for people to be in a room together, experiencing something together. Having live performers helps people understand human communication.”
He believes this show will have kids rethink a story they already know, but more than that, it will be loads of fun for whoever comes out to watch.
“It’s a very brisk telling of the Peter Pan story so you get all your favorite incidents packed into an hour-long show with lots of good physical humor and lots of delightful sword fighting and a lot of good jokes,” Olcott says. “On top of that, I love shows that address a specific part of human development. This show addresses how to deal with someone you love, who can make you mad, and you can still continue to love them. That’s a very hard thing for children to get their heads around initially.”
That feeling is what Tinker Bell is dealing with in the show. She gets angry at Peter, he gets angry at her, but in the end, they remain friends and their friendship remains important to both of them.
“I think all of us can be reminded of that lesson every now and again, but I think for children, it’s an important one to encounter and contemplate,” he says. “What do we do with our anger at a loved-one? This helps answer that.”
The key to directing any show aimed at children, Olcott notes, is to be totally honest, because experience has taught him the audience will be honest in return.
“If something doesn’t make sense in a script, an adult audience will politely sit there and go on, while kids will pipe up from the audience, ‘wait, why is he doing that?’ You can’t cheat them,” he says. “Even in a magical world of flying people and fairies and everything else going on, it’s really finding the honest motivation and making sure it’s humanly grounded. I love the challenge of meeting that honesty and making sure everything is clear and they enjoy it.”