By the time COVID-19 hit, all the young actors had been chosen for the 32nd annual Capitol Theatre Summer Youth Program.
The hallmark of the program is the opportunity it gives young performers to work with professional directors, sound engineers, choreographers, musicians, lighting designers, and stage managers.
All those professionals had already been hired.
But a stage production with an audience was suddenly out of the question.
What to do?
They’re turning this year’s production, Peter and the Starcatcher, into a film. The play, written by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, is the origin story of the characters in Peter Pan and ran on Broadway in 2012.
Capitol Theatre stage managers Olivia Bogaard and Terry Brennan are looking after the technical aspects along with two hired videographers.
Director Adriana Bogaard (Olivia’s cousin) says switching to film means everything is new for everyone.
“Acting for camera is different. It is more subtle. And instead of doing a scene all at once, you are chopping it into pieces — close up, not so close up — so it is harder to find a rhythm.”
And they don’t have to worry about projecting their voices to be heard. They don’t have to stand by in the wings waiting for their cues.
“In a tight close-up, if you lean a little you are out of the frame,” Adriana says. “That’s a new thing, you have to stay totally planted and still.”
Waiting around is a big thing on film sets. The young actors this summer did not realize how long it takes to set up a shot.
For all these reasons, Adriana is giving the project a different educational focus.
“We’re really focused on working on character development with them, and teaching them about the process of making a film. We spent three weeks rehearsing in Lions Park. And then now we’ve moved into a week of filming, and that’s a big learning curve for everybody.”
The film locations have included the park plus the Prestige dock, the shore of Kootenay Lake by the airport, Cottonwood Falls, and inside the Capitol itself.
“They said they would find a way to do it,” says Angelia Thomson, 14, who plays one of the lead roles. “And I trust the Capitol. I knew they would find a way. Filming is definitely a new experience, especially in the heat in full costume. I had no idea how long it takes to film just one scene. It’s a very good experience and I have learned a lot.”
Thomson says the biggest challenge was learning to speak with an English accent. And the most fun part was a scene in which some of the characters are thrown into the ocean from a ship in the dark.
“Last night we jumped off the [Prestige] dock in our clothes, which I was very nervous to do at first but it was a very fun time. Everyone was there and it was dark out and it was something new and exciting to do.”
Julian Barkman, who plays Peter, also fondly remembers being thrown off the ship.
“Normally [in a stage play] we would do some sort of stage representation of that. But due to the circumstances, they could actually just throw me in the water.”
Barkman, 17, who is already no stranger to stage performances, says the unexpected move to film intensified the learning experience. “But I’m very happy with how we’re adapting,” he says.
But after all that, few people will be able to see the film.
The rights to the play are owned by Disney, who won’t let the Capitol put the final result online except as very short clips. The most the company will allow is for copies of the full film to be given to the families of the actors, but they may not post them on the web.
“Once we have everything edited together,” said Adriana, “we will decide as a cast which parts we would like people to see, choose the parts we are proudest of.”
So learning about licensing has become part of this summer’s education for the performers.
“They are still wrapping their heads around it,” Adriana says. “It is hard for them to understand why.”
Meanwhile, back on the set and waiting patiently for a shot to be set up, Thomson said she’s enjoying the similarity between her character’s personality and her own.
“I have definitely connected with the character in my real life for sure,” she said. “I feel like I try to be a leader to the best of my ability. My character Molly is very similar to me in that she is kind of sassy but also likes to be a leader and likes to be strong and do things and be busy and always have something on the go.”