Peter Pan July 18-21 at Theatre Jacksonville
Jason Woods returns to Neverland once more with an encore performance of Peter Pan at Theatre Jacksonville. On the heels of its successful – and award-winning –three show run in February, Woods was inspired to make the journey one last time, this time for six additional performances.
Woods’ staged reading of Peter Pan is presented July 18-21 at Theatre Jacksonville. The show was named Best Local Play at the 2019 Rainbow Awards. www.peterpanbyjasonwoods/eventbrite.com
“It’s fun for me. It’s engaging. Three years ago, it’s the show that got me into theatre so there’s a sacredness I think to it for me in that way. I want to do things that are more grounded in humanity going forward but it’s just so much fun, I wanted to do it one more time because I was surprised by the success of it in February. I thought it would be good and entertaining but I didn’t think people would respond the way they did. I was really pleased.”
The ensemble cast returns for a stylized staged reading, that is to say with scripts in hand but in costume with fully realized musical numbers. Audiences will notice a few new surprises, including a slow-motion fight sequence. “I called it a staged reading but then I got them up on their feet and fully costumed,” he laughs.
Joshua Taylor is at the helm once again as the deliciously snarky Capt. Hook. Lee Hamby enjoys a delightful return as Mermaid Moll. The role of Moll was written for a female and originated by Sadie Akers but she was appearing in another show so Woods tweaked the role for Hamby, including a solo number called “Yass Queen.”
“They are all so good. I just called the best people I could think of. They are all so hilarious and giving and incredibly talented and so in command that I just sat in the pit like a kid. People said there were two shows; what was happening on stage and me watching with my mouth open. I was running sound cues because I just wanted to be as close as I could to what was going on. It was just so joyful.”
Stephen Dare brings a wide-eyed innocence to the role of Michael Darling. Dare infused the character with the honesty of a young boy who is clearly unimpressed with Pan’s Neverland, voicing his displeasure that ‘it’s just a bunch of trees and water. Is there a rainbow slide?’ He was just so grateful to be among these people and he’s just so funny with the things that he says,” muses Woods.
“At the end when Peter Pan suddenly is going to take them all back to London, he says ‘so, just like that you’re going to take us all home? That’s really lazy writing’. So there’s some winks out to the audience. We acknowledge that there’s no flying in the show because the theatre needs more grants.”
Woods is drawn to the spirit of Neverland, the kind of place where mermaids sing and tinkerbells ring and ticking crocodiles roam the island. It was J.M. Barrie’s story of the who wouldn’t grow up that inspired him to pursue theatre. He staged his first production of Peter Pan three years ago but this is reimagined version of that story. As a playwright and director, Woods is always searching for new paths to explore.
“I’ve always thought that the most interesting characters were the fantastical ones, and that’s Captain Hook and Tinkerbell and the crocodile. I’ve always seen more potential in Capt. Hook as a comedic vehicle. He usually just a fopp or he’s really bad. I love Shakespeare and the opportunity to use Shakespearean insults. He has a little book he refers to when he wants to insult someone.”
As difficult as it may be to leave the world of Neverland behind, Woods is planning a transition into more dramatic work. “As I get older and I look at escapism, I value escapism but Peter Pan is grounded in a tragedy. He can’t grow up. In fact, Barrie says that ‘all children, except one, grow up’. That one sentence carries so much to me,” he says.
“It’s hard for me to leave it. A few years I ago I wanted to not be known as the guy who does the magic stuff. I felt like I was being pigeon-holed in that way. My ego got in the way. What I realized is that people needed the escape. That’s become very important to me.”
Woods will produce and star in a future production of Hamlet, the first time it has been produced in Jacksonville in 19 years. He will also appear alongside the Vintage Players to stage a senior level production of “Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell” based on the play “The Silver Whistle.” Woods will play the title character, a 45 year- old author pretending to be 85 who sneaks into an old folks’ home with a dead man’s death certificate. His goal is to convince the members if senior community that he’s discovered the secret to eternal youth with a fake pill and a bit of whiskey.
“I’ve been pushing them a little further and I’m creating an opportunity for them to all be on stage with me in November in a reading at ABET. It’s about old people in an old folk’s home who feel that everybody has given up on them which is sometimes the message that I get from them. I’m interested in their escapism. I need to do something current and dramatic for me as an actor that will satisfy and challenge me,” he says.
“We can’t audition for anything, nobody will cast us, I can’t drive that far anymore. The theme of the play is that everybody has value no matter their age. When I work with people, if you say I can’t do something, we’ll figure out a way to do it.”