“Peter Pan” to open in April at Athol High School

Sean Kelley (left) runs through a scene as Captain James Hook with Bronwyn Whitney, who plays Peter Pan in the spring production of the classic story at Athol High School on Tuesday, March 5.

Sean Kelley (left) runs through a scene as Captain James Hook with Bronwyn Whitney, who plays Peter Pan in the spring production of the classic story at Athol High School on Tuesday, March 5. STAFF PHOTO/MAX BOWEN—

Sean Kelley described his role as Captain Hook as a comeback of sorts, after years of having few opportunities to be on stage.

Sean Kelley described his role as Captain Hook as a comeback of sorts, after years of having few opportunities to be on stage. STAFF PHOTO/MAX BOWEN

Bronwyn Whitney (left) and Chevonne Stockwood rehearse a scene for the Athol Theatre Department’s production of “Peter Pan,” which opens on Friday, April 5.

Bronwyn Whitney (left) and Chevonne Stockwood rehearse a scene for the Athol Theatre Department’s production of “Peter Pan,” which opens on Friday, April 5. STAFF PHOTO/MAX BOWEN—

Bronwyn Whitney, who plays Peter Pan in the Athol Theatre Department spring production of the classic story, described the character as someone who thinks they own the room.

Bronwyn Whitney, who plays Peter Pan in the Athol Theatre Department spring production of the classic story, described the character as someone who thinks they own the room. STAFF PHOTO/MAX BOWEN—

The cast of the Athol Theatre Department’s spring production of “Peter Pan” rehearse on Tuesday, March 5. In this scene, Captain Hook (played by Sean Kelley, far right) attempts to recruit a new pirate crew. Addison L’Ecuyer (in front), who plays Tootles, doesn’t seem thrilled with the idea.

The cast of the Athol Theatre Department’s spring production of “Peter Pan” rehearse on Tuesday, March 5. In this scene, Captain Hook (played by Sean Kelley, far right) attempts to recruit a new pirate crew. Addison L’Ecuyer (in front), who plays Tootles, doesn’t seem thrilled with the idea. STAFF PHOTO/MAX BOWEN

AHS Senior Alma White in the role of Wendy, shows no fear of Captain Hook. This take on the classic “Peter Pan” has a more modern feel, according to Co-director Erin Shine.

AHS Senior Alma White in the role of Wendy, shows no fear of Captain Hook. This take on the classic “Peter Pan” has a more modern feel, according to Co-director Erin Shine. STAFF PHOTO/MAX BOWEN—

Emmalyn Talbot, who plays Slightly, holds a crocodile prop, one of many that will be used in the play.

Emmalyn Talbot, who plays Slightly, holds a crocodile prop, one of many that will be used in the play. STAFF PHOTO/MAX BOWEN

By MAX BOWEN

Athol Daily News Editor

Published: 03-20-2024 5:00 PM

ATHOL — A modern look for the classic story “Peter Pan” will take to the stage at Athol High School in April, with a cast from all grade levels.

The Athol Theatre Department’s production will open on Friday, April 5, at 7 p.m. There will be additional shows on Saturday, April 6, at 7 p.m. and two shows on April 7, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Co-directed by Athol Community Elementary School teacher Zachary Finne and Erin Shine, a professional actor, the play is based on J.M. Barrie’s classic novel adapted for the stage by Craig Sodaro and also into an animated movie by Disney. The play is produced by special arrangement with Pioneer Drama Service, Inc. of Denver, Colorado.

One notable feature of this performance is that the cast is comprised of students of all ages. Seventh-grader Bronwyn Whitney is one of the leads as Peter Pan. It’s far from the first time that a female actor has played the role — many women over the years have done so, as far back as 1904.

Whitney described Pan as “very stuck up,” and someone who thinks they own the place. She joked that she found inspiration from other boys that she knows.

“All the boys are stuck up, and I copied them,” she said with a laugh. “I channeled my inner 7-year-old boy in this.”

Whitney has been acting since the third grade and has appeared in productions of “Annie” and “Shrek.” She said one difference with this performance of “Peter Pan” is the camaraderie among the cast.

“In past roles there was some isolation,” Whitney said. “Here, we talk to one another.”

AHS Junior Sean Kelley described his role as Captain James Hook as “my comeback show.” For a time, Kelley’s family lived overseas and he said there weren’t many opportunities for him to be on stage.

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“The atmosphere is very welcoming — for a lot of the kids, this is their first time,” he said. “They have such a spark. They realize they want to do this for a long time.”

On the villain, Kelley said he’s “a little bit of a lot” and loves to be in control.

“He can be passionate about the most random things,” said Kelley.

Shine comes with a lot of experience in theater, having studied at Salem State College and earning a BFA in theater and BA in music in 2023. While working on another production, she heard of the need for a co-director for the Athol High production and contacted the principal.

“Everyone loves fairy tails, it’s a great place to start from” Shine said. “There are opportunities for all of them (the cast). It makes them feel involved. Everyone has a role, some have two.”

During one of the rehearsals, students would offer feedback on certain lines or scenes, which Shine was receptive to. During her time at Salem State, she acted, worked on sets, designed costumes and wrote scripts.

“It really gives you the opportunity for the whole craft,” she said.

When asked about any changes to the Peter Pan story, Shine said this version has a more modern feel, with some elements that wouldn’t be acceptable today having been taken out. She said the story isn’t quite as heavy as the original, but retains many of the same elements.

“It’s very modern, but also the classic that everyone knows,” she said.

This is Shine’s first time working with a young cast and she said she loved the experience. She especially enjoyed how involved the students are in the process, and some also are taking part in middle school productions.

“The young kids bring such high energy,” Shine said. “It’s a chance to do something they know very well.”

Max Bowen can be reached at 413-930-4074 or at mbowen@atholdailynews.com.