Childsplay stages “Pete, or the Return of Peter Pan”

Childsplay, Pete, the return of Peter Pan, Tim Trimble photo
Photo by Tim Trimble, courtesy of Childsplay.

He’s the little boy who never grew up. His name is Peter Pan, and everyone knows his story. Or maybe not.

In the modern-day sequel entitled “Pete, or the Return of Peter Pan,” the ageless boy whisks Wendy and her brother off to Neverland for a new adventure. Yes, there are pirates, but there are also ninjas and even a pterodactyl. While dealing with these, the children learn about the precious nature of friendship, time and memory.

Childsplay - Saar Costumes
David Saar, Childsplay’s founder and artistic director.

Tempe’s Childsplay will present the show’s world premiere April 24-May 22, in celebration of Childsplay founder David Saar’s last production as artistic director. Recommended for ages 6 and up, the production is written by Dwayne Hartford, Childsplay’s incoming artistic director.

The world has changed a lot since Scottish novelist and playwright J.M. Barrie wrote “Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up” in 1904. It’s also changed since a musical version of Barrie’s play opened on Broadway in 1954, starring Mary Martin in the title role.

Childsplay, Dwayne Hartford
Dwayne Hartford is Childplay’s incoming artistic director. He wrote “Pete” in honor of the man whose shoes he will fill. Photo courtesy of Childsplay.

“Children’s lives are very different, with their free time scheduled to the minute, and their idea of play being limited to what is on the digital device in their hands,” Hartford says. He believes that kids in the 21st century need Peter Pan and Neverland more than ever.

The “Pete, or the Return of Peter Pan” cast features Rebecca Duckworth as Wendy, Alan Khoutakoun as Henry and Gavin Brown as Peter.

Additional cast members include Debra K. Stevens (Mom/Anne Bonny/Warrior in Black), Katie McFadzen (Grandmother/Mary Read/Warrior in Black), Jon Gentry (Smee/Warrior in Black), Bobby Shook (Warrior in Black) and Marshall Vosler (Warrior in Black).

The 4 p.m. performance on Sunday, April 24 is a special $12 Storybook Preview sponsored by the Steele Foundation, and each family attending will receive a free book. Backstage tours are available Sunday, May 8, and Saturday, May 21, and families may join in a special event after the performance on Sunday, May 22, when they can go backstage for snacks and beverages, tour the set, learn about the props and costumes and meet the actors.

Hartford speaks fondly of Saar, who will direct the production. “David has been my mentor, director, boss, collaborator, and most importantly, friend,” he says. “He created a Neverland called Childsplay, and once I found my way there, I knew that it was where this lost boy belonged. It is with much gratitude and affection that this play is dedicated to him.”

If you go: 1 and 4 p.m. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Sundays, April 24-May 22. Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Pkwy. $12 – $26.

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