'Peter Pan' soars at Brewery Arts Center

Rod Hearn wants people to sit in the dark. That's when the magic happens.

"It's the magic of theater," Hearn explained. "When you sit in the audience, you're breathing the same air as the people who are on stage performing. That's what makes theater exciting. It really draws you in and makes you part of the whole experience."

Hearn and his wife, Catherine, will help create that experience in the Brewery Arts Center's staging of "Peter Pan." Catherine Hearn will play the title role. Rod Hearn will play Captain Hook. Jeffrey Scott directs the production.

The show runs for eight performances from Sept. 8 to 10 and Sept. 15 to 17 at the Carson City Community Center. Tickets are $16 for the general public; $12 for students, seniors and BAC members; and $10 for children 10 and under. Tickets can be purchased at the BAC or by calling 883-1976.

"This is the fully-staged, original Broadway version of 'Peter Pan,'" said Carol Scott, the BAC's energetic artistic director. "It will be one of the biggest shows ever seen in Carson City."

She's not exaggerating. Big cast and crew - about 70 people. Big sets - some soaring 20 feet high. Big budget - well over $45,000. Big special effects - flying sequences by the Foys, who flew the original Broadway cast.

"All the excitement makes our palms sweat," Scott admitted.

As dramatic leads, Rod and Catherine Hearn generate a lot of that excitement.

"This is the second time I've gotten to play Captain Hook," Rod Hearn said. "The first time was in Arizona in a much smaller production." Hearn earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Arizona and teaches English and drama at Douglas High School.

Hearn recently played lead Frank Butler in "Annie Get Your Gun" with the Western Nevada Musical Theatre Company. He also appeared as presidential murderer Charles Guiteau in "Assassins" at the BAC.

Catherine Hearn won't be reprising a role when she soars as Peter Pan, but she's excited nonetheless, "especially about flying with the Foys. I've never flown, and the Foys are the ones who originated theatrical flying. Everyone knows them by reputation."

Hearn began her stage career as a dancer, but she grew too tall for ballet. She switched to musical theater at the urging of a colleague. Her lithe dancer's body and sloe-eyed charm are perfect for the part of Peter Pan.

Hearn graduated from the Royal Academy of Dance in London and was resident choreographer of the Southern Arizona Light Opera Company. She's acted in videos, commercials and in such television shows as "Highway to Heaven," "Father Murphy" and "Little House on the Prairie."

In Nevada, she appeared as Sister Robert Anne in "Sister Amnesia's Country Western Nunsense Jamboree" and as Pamela in "Getting Away with Murder."

Besides theatrical veterans such as the Hearns, "an incredibly talented group of local performers" will help bring "Peter Pan" to life, Scott said. "This is a community production. All we have is volunteer help. That is how community theater works."

Catherine Hearn agreed. "This is a great production because we have a large and eager group of children (who will play the Lost Boys) working in the summer theater youth camp. And we have an equally as large and equally as eager group of adults filling out the pirate and Indian roles."

The pirates are especially enthusiastic, Scott laughingly noted. "You should see these big pirate guys. They're dancing and doing fan kicks. They are just pouring their souls into the production and working on the sets during the weekends."

Volunteers have made Herculean efforts building these sets from 35 different blueprints. The sets are already one of the production's proudest achievements.

"They are extra special," Scott said. "We've put out a lot of money doing them from scratch. We had to do them off-site because they are too big to construct in the BAC."

Scott explained that set design had to take into account both quick scene changes and flying sequences.

"One set has to break apart in ten to 15 seconds in front of the audience. We have a pirate ship that comes in and has to go away. The nursery has to leave and come back in.

"Set pieces need to remain anchored while Peter Pan is flying on them," Scott continued. "The ability of the performers to see when they are flying had to be considered. Everything had to be built light and strong."

The sets are of such quality that "we could take them and rent them to other community theaters or sell them and make a profit," Catherine Hearn added.

Besides praising its technical wizardry, cast and crew, Scott and the leads are proud the BAC production remains faithful to Sir James M. Barrie's original text and vision.

"This staging is very traditional," Rod Hearn said. "People really know the story of Peter Pan. That's what they want to see, and that's what we're striving to provide. I think it would be a disservice to stray too far away from that because the book is really an inspiration. It's magical."

Scott is counting on that familiarity and magic to fill 840 seats over the show's run. And she's hoping some who do attend, especially kids and teens, will be inspired to join the BAC's programs.

"I believe parents want to take their children to see theater and kids want to come," she said. "They become our community theater members of the future. They'll learn about the camaraderie of doing a show together. It becomes a family and then you don't want the show to end."

Catherine Hearn also enjoys the bonds community theater forges. "I've worked in professional theater. You have time clocks and union rules and mandatory 20-minute breaks. It's people's job. Community theater, people do it because they love the theater and want to be there. There's always a nice mixture of people with different theater experiences."

Such diversity is the bedrock of community theater, Rod Hearn said. He believes an art form that actively engages audiences is especially valuable today when so much entertainment is passively consumed.

"Live theater requires a contribution and commitment on the audience's part, but the payoff is bigger. Theater is relevant now more than ever considering how much time people spend in front of television or on the Internet. I think it's a really important mission for places like the Brewery Arts Center to pull audiences in."

The National Endowment for the Arts, Nevada Arts Council, Nevada Bell Foundation, Carson City Millennium Committee, First Judicial District Bar Association, Carol Franc Buck Foundation, Fred Meyer Foundation, AT&T Media Services, and SBO Global Network provided grants that partially funded "Peter Pan."


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