GREENFIELD – Skull Cave was in need of some dental work. Its grey paper teeth were loose and hanging askew from its gaping mouth. Inside the four-foot hollow skull — made of wood, chicken wire and cloth mache — 10-year-old Dillon Smith wielded a staple gun and did a little dentistry.
The cave dominates the stage in the lagoon scene for the Hancock County Children’s Theatre production of “Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure,” showing at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Greenfield-Central High School auditorium, 810 N. Broadway.
Kid-designed and kid-made — under the watchful eye of technical director and Greenfield-Central High School art teacher Jeff Weiland — the larger-than-life skull serves as part of one of five separate sets needed for the show.
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The entire production is cast and crewed by children from the four county school systems, all eager to dip their toes into theater arts. Of the 102 participants, 70 will take the stage as actors, while the remaining 32 learn what it takes to put together a theater production behind the scenes.
In its 26th year, Hancock County Children’s Theatre, directed by Pam Johnson, runs like clockwork. Anne Tilley has taught choreography to the fourth- through eighth-graders for 21 years; Della Benefiel focuses on the vocals; Parrish Williams directs the acting; and Weiland manages all things technical, from set construction to sound.
Rehearsals began on May 31, running 8:30 a.m. until noon five days a week. The staff comes in early each morning to evaluate the progress of the production and determine the goals for the day.
Williams has been with the summer theater program for 10 years. He remains in awe of the kids and their abilities.
“What is so incredible is the age of these kids — that they can create sets and all the artwork that they do,” Williams said. “It’s really raw talent.”
He’s not exaggerating, Johnson said. The goal is to allow children to take the lead. They make mistakes, make adjustments and learn how to avoid pitfalls next time.
“We don’t walk beside them and tell them to do stuff. They create the show,” she said.
Weiland and James Jahrsdoerfer, an art teacher from Knightstown, coach the students through building the set, designing the playbill, running the lights and sound and changing scenes.
In the first 10 days of rehearsal, Weiland’s crew of mostly fourth- and fifth-graders works on building and painting the set. Then he splits up the group and hands out specialized tasks: running the mixer on the sound board, setting light cues and using the spotlight to follow the actors on stage. He
The Hancock County Children’s Theatre Workshop presents “Peter Pan,” at 7 p.m. Friday at Saturday at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at Greenfield-Central High School, 810 N. Broadway. Tickets are $7 at the door.