A new play opening Thursday, April 14 is showcasing more than just local talent. It’s a nod to the future of collaboration in public school districts.
“Peter and the Starcatcher,” a product of the new North Valley Arts Academies in the Paradise Valley Unified School District, is a celebration of firsts. NVAA is one of only a few such programs in the country that gives students in grades 5-12 from three different schools a chance to work together.
Desert Cove Elementary, Shea Middle School and Shadow Mountain High School students are all participating in the program, which launched in 2015. So when the curtain goes up on the Disney production, based on Peter Pan, the audience will see 12 students from Desert Cove and Shea Middle Schools and 24 students from Shadow Mountain High School, all performing together.
“It creates a really good mentorship atmosphere where the younger students learn from the more advanced students,” Program Director Joe Flowers says.
The Academy accepts students from grades 5-12. Right now most of the focus is on the performing and visual arts, but over the years Flowers says that will be expanded. For students taking part in this production, he calls it a happy turn of the fates.
“The stars sort of aligned, because Disney contacted me about the show, and the new Shadow Mountain Arts Center was opening up—another first—and we just started this new North Valley Arts Program,” he says.
Flowers sees all of the work that went into bringing the show to life as a learning experience.
“No one can do it all by themselves, and I’ve found for many students, who are used to having immediate answers at their fingertips, that this long-term collaboration teaches them skills like patience, communication and creative risk taking, in a way that no other classroom setting can.”
Being exposed to the additional years of a higher level of training is also a plus for the younger students. Flowers believes because of the program, they will come to high school with more confidence and will already know some of the upperclassmen.
“It’s that confidence that they get from learning that its OK to be yourself in all aspects of your life,” he says. “The pre-teen and teenage years carry a lot of social pressures. I’ve found with my theater students they learn they don’t need to conform to what other people expect; they learn who they are is wonderful.”
Tickets to “Peter and the Starcatcher,” (the Broadway version of which won five Tony Awards) can be purchased online or at the door.
If you go: 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, April 14-16. Shadow Mountain High School Performing Arts Center, 2902 E. Shea Blvd., Phoenix. $10; $5 students. shadowmountaindrama.com.