Peter, Pirates, and Peculiar Props

The Black Box Theater transformed into a magically fantastical world for this winter’s hilarious play


Ashley Roche

This Black Box production was an instant hit for the whole family, a combination of silly, comedic moments and heartfelt, meaningful scenes.

Singing mermaids, pirates fighting with plungers, and giant crocodiles are just a few of the wild aspects of the hilariously creative production of the winter play, Peter and the Starcatcher by Rick Elice. 

Peter and the Starcatcher is a prequel to the beloved classic story of Peter Pan. The play follows a young girl named Molly and an orphan boy who embark on a mission to protect a trunk filled with magical “star stuff” from the evil pirate, Black Stache. The audience watches the poor orphan boy become increasingly courageous during the journey, leading to him getting the name “Peter Pan” and gaining his abilities to fly and remain young. When Black Stache hilariously slams his hand in a trunk by mistake, it’s confirmed that he really is the famous Captain Hook who goes on to disrupt Peter and the lost boys’ adventures many more times to come. At the end of the show, after a heartwarming romance emerges between Molly and Peter, it’s revealed that Molly will become the mother of Wendy, who will too, someday go on a journey with Peter many years later, which is the story all know and love. 

Peter and the Starcatcher was a remarkably fun experience from the second you walked into the theater. Unlike any other show done at Notre Dame, the actors remained onstage while the audience members entered and settled in their seats. For the entire 15 minutes before the show began, the actors wandered the stage while talking to each other, playing card games, making swords out of balloons, dancing, and even interacting with audience members at moments.

Fantastic lighting design helped audiences suspend their disbelief, creating one of the most ambitious technical projects to date. Seen here, Peter and Molly are admiring a star-filled night sky. (Ashley Roche)

This was all done to establish that the story about to be told was really a bunch of children dressing up and playing pretend. The actors even put on their costumes right in front of the audience at the start of the show. 

This style of performance allowed for some of the most creatively innovative uses for random objects as props. Green umbrellas carried by the actors in a choreographed sequence were used to represent the chaotic plants and trees of the wilderness on the island. Colorful balloon swords created a beautiful sea of color on stage during a hectic sword fight in which the entire cast was involved. Plenty of other imaginative props such as stuffed animals, fidget spinners, a bicycle wheel, and broomsticks found ways to add a playful element to the wildly thrilling and quite complex plot. Due to this massive amount of props, the actors had to take on the role of the crew in ways they typically would not, by rolling set pieces onstage and handling most of their own props. 

Thea Marsh ‘25, who portrayed the show’s charming heroine, Molly, said “I think one of the aspects that made this show unique is how much every actor was involved all the time. If you weren’t on stage, you were doing projections or you were a piece of the scenery, for example. No matter what, you were always doing something and it was always fun.”

Production wise, this show was uniquely intricate and executed extraordinarily well. There were so many other technical aspects, such as elaborate lighting and projections, shadow puppets, and even a fog machine, that added to the fantasy. 

Wild, colorful patterns were projected onto the five hanging sheets at the back of the set to indicate the setting, emphasize a feeling, or signify the shifting movement of a ship. The fog machine established and immersed the audience into the mystical world of pirates and mermaids. Shadow puppets brought the childish yet wholesome element of the show to another level. 

The production included multiple musical numbers, with “Mermaid Out of Me” opening the second act with a bang. A live band played the entire score backstage led by Julian Gonzales ‘23 and Victor Berg ‘24 on percussion. (Ashley Roche)

Sophia Hotchkiss ‘23, who played Molly’s hilarious nanny, Mrs. Bumbrake said, “One of my favorite parts of this show would have to be the shadow puppets. I’ve never really seen something like that in a show before. It was so fun to be able to use flashlights and projectors and paper cutouts to tell parts of the story and make it more immersive.” 

Apart from these technical aspects, the actors’ commitment to their characters is what truly brought this imaginary world to life. The British accents, character-specific physicality, and overall stage presence of every actor made the story significantly more intriguing. The impeccable comedic timing of the students in this production had the audience laughing throughout the entire show. 

Aidan Baker ‘23, who played Peter, said, “This was really the type of show that only a really ambitious cast and crew could pull off. We had to come in on our days off just to make the show ready and I think it came together really nicely in the end. I’m really proud of the show we all put on.”

An epic duel of words and wit takes place on stage, as two opposing pirates wield a plunger and a broomstick as weapons. With such unconventional props, it was up to the actors to make the objects come to life. (Ashley Roche)

And of course, an immense amount of credit must be given to the wonderful director of this production, Mr. Wollman. The childish elements of shadow puppets, random props, and having actors be seen by the audience during the pre-show and intermission could be seen as risks taken by a director, as they are not commonly seen done. However, these choices were executed with such specific intention and professionalism, that they enhanced the production in so many unique ways.

His dedication to creating a whole new world within the Black Box was made clear and done successfully. This was only the second show that Mr. Wollman has directed at ND, and he has definitely proven his talent with how much he has brought to the theater department.

Everyone is already so excited to see what he has planned for next spring with the musical, Mamma Mia!