Saugerties Drama Club gears up for spring production, Peter and the Starcatcher

Max Martinez as Prentiss, Julie Voerg as Molly Aster, and Becky Sauer as Ted. (Ulster County BOCES)

The Saugerties Jr./Sr. High School Drama Club will stage a performance of Peter and the Starcatcher in mid-March, bringing together the talents of kids in this year’s production. The play is co-directed by the drama club’s faculty advisers, Geordarna Constant, an English and acting teacher; and Judy Hart, a global studies and psychology teacher.

Constant stressed that the production is very much student-driven. “It is 100 percent them,” said Constant. “I’m just sort of here to direct them, to make sure they don’t get hurt, make sure they’re making good choices, supporting each other. But they do everything, from building the set, stage managing, costumes, music direction, and really everything from top to bottom. It’s really amazing to watch it all come together.”

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The play, based on a 2004 novel Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, is essentially a prequel to Peter and Wendy, J.M. Barrie’s celebrated play and novel about Peter Pan. Peter and the Starcatchers provides backstories for Pan, the Lost Boys, Tinker Bell, and other characters in Barrie’s tale. Peter and the Starcatcher premiered a decade ago, eventually opening on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theater in the spring of 2012. 

For Constant, Peter and the Starcatcher is an ideal play for the drama club. “It really highlights their talents,” she said. “It’s about storytelling, and it’s really cool to watch the kids have to be creative. Their school day is so much sitting down, writing, doing math, standardized tests, all that stuff. In this venue I really get to see their creative juices, and this is a show and tell kind of play. It’s very overtly funny and tongue-in-cheek, and it’s exciting to watch them all get excited about that kind of humor. The costuming is humorous and fun.”

For the first time in the three years Constant and Hart have served as advisers to the drama club, the play is partly a musical. “Musical direction is actually being led by one of our students [Becky O’Dell, a senior],” said Constant. “It’s just cool to see them all get to have their own time to shine.”

O’Dell is relishing the opportunity to serve as musical director, especially as she’s planning to study music education in college. “My job is to teach everyone the parts they will be singing, almost like a choir director in a way,” O’Dell said. “I’m directing the ensemble in the musical parts of our play. Most of our singers are pretty experienced. They’ve sung in choirs and ensembles before, and some of them have performed in musicals. But one of our leads has actually never sang before. I’ve been working with him, and it has been a challenge for both of us, but he’s very enthusiastic and very excited. It’s been a good experience for both of us so far.”

O’Dell plays Captain Scott in the production, a sizable role and one of a few different hats she’s wearing; in addition to also serving as musical director, O’Dell is taking on a few minor roles as well.  “I’m probably playing about, I don’t know, maybe three or four different roles,” she said. “I’m all over the place.”

In the past, the drama clubs were separate, with the junior high and senior high clubs putting on their own plays each year. But when a faculty adviser couldn’t be found for the junior high club a few years ago, the two were blended. 

“It turned out to be a really good decision,” said Constant. “The really cool thing about having a club of seventh-through-twelfth-graders, is that the upperclassmen really lift up the younger kids and make them excited. We’re really a family here. Nerves have gone out the window; I’m sure we’ll see them as the show approaches, but it’s really nice to see how supportive of each other they are. And that’s the best part for me as a teacher, seeing the upperclassmen really sort of embrace the younger kids, be role models, and show them it’s cool and fun and not scary.”

Peter and the Starcatcher was chosen from among several plays brought to the drama club in the fall. “We put out feelers back in November,” said Hart. “We like our productions to be student-driven, so we encourage them to come in with ideas of what they would like to do and then we narrow it down. In December we held auditions, and then we started right in after Christmas, holding rehearsals, blocking, getting things to come together.”

With less than a month to go before the pair of performances, rehearsals are in full swing. The buzz around the drama club is palpable. 

“I love it,” said Becky Sauer, a senior and president of a drama club she’s been a part of since the seventh grade. “It’s like my second home. I love all the experiences and getting to work with everybody else.”

Sauer, playing an orphan named Ted, said audiences should love Peter and the Starcatcher.  “It’s hilarious,” said Sauer. “There’s a few very funny songs. People are definitely in for a surprise.”

Max Martinez, a senior playing the role of orphan boy Prentiss, is back in the drama club for the first time since junior high. “I missed it,” Martinez said. “I remembered how fun it was, and just being able to have family in school and enjoy my friends, and with all of them doing it, I jumped back in and I’m so excited to be here.”

Martinez, who scratched his performance itch over the years with church plays, his youth worship team, piano recitals, high school choir, and lip sync, said there’s nothing like the experience of the school drama club. 

“It’s an amazing experience,” he said. “No matter who you are, you’re going to fit in. They’ll find something for you to do. You’re loved here. We hang out for hours after school. We go out for dinner and do so much together to create good friendships. It’s just amazing.”

Hart echoed the sentiment. “The students keep coming back,” she said. “The only thing that makes it difficult is saying goodbye to them when they graduate. Anybody who really wants a part, we like to choose productions with a large ensemble, and we always tell the kids that there’s no small part. Some of the funniest responses you get from the audience don’t come from the leads, they’re from the supporting cast.”

The Saugerties Jr./Sr. High School Drama Club’s production of Peter and the Starcatcher will take place on Friday, March 15 and Saturday, March 16, with the curtain rising in the Saugerties High School auditorium at 7 p.m. for each performance.

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