April 16, 2024
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Yeshivat He’Atid Chugim Perform ‘Peter Pan’

February 5, 1953. A historic date, especially for those who loved the animated classic “Peter Pan.” On that day, “Peter Pan” was officially released in American theaters. On February 5, 2023, 70 years to the day, more than 400 people were treated to Yeshivat He’Atid’s very own production of “Peter Pan” at Heichal Hatorah’s theater space. The thrilling theatrical event was performed by 56 drama and choir students from grades three through eight, who have been participating in He’Atid’s afterschool chugim.

The students have been practicing since November to perfect the play, which was written and directed by Kathy Stout, a freelance theater director who adapted the play from JM Barrie’s “Peter Pan.” Stout worked hand-in-hand with Producer Elliot Guerra and Choir Director Cantor Eric Freeman.

“It has been a joy and privilege to meet and work with this incredible group of young actors,” Stout said. “We embarked on this journey into Neverland together and along the way found a new understanding of story, characters and quite a bit of theater magic.We are thrilled to be educational partners with a learning community as wonderful as Yeshivat He’Atid; in a town my family and I truly love.”

Students who participated in the Theater Club were introduced earlier in the semester to theater games and warm ups—which were actually part of their audition. Guerra added that students shared a lot just by the way they participate in games. To round out the audition process, each student read a small part of the script—either alone or with a partner. Parts were assigned by Stout and Guerra and the students spent many hours after school perfecting their roles.

“As a 16 year veteran of arts education, I’ve learned that the best theaters are classrooms and often classrooms—theater,” Guerra said. “It’s a joy to bring theater to He’Atid, a thriving community of eager and talented young artists! Everything you see at the show is from them! From their memorized lines, costumes and stage management! This has been a great experience, and I have a feeling, we’re just getting started!”

Fourth grader, Zoe Lebovitch, led the cast as Peter Pan, with fifth grader Brielle Schneck also shining in her role as Wendy. The choir played the parts of mermaids and sirens and serenaded the crowd with classic songs such as “I Won’t Grow Up” and newer songs including “Wellerman” and “Lost Boy.”

The “Peter Pan” cast even learned stage combat. The pirates and Lost Boys kept the audience’s imagination peaked when they performed an exciting sword fight scene.

“It felt good to be in my very first performance, and I hope it is going to be the first of many more,” said fourth grader Julia Kozlovsky, who played Lost Boy, Mo. “Being with my friends from school made it easier to be less shy on the stage. Knowing they were there made me more confident.”

YH parent Ayelet Mermelstein served as the play’s executive producer and managed the many parent volunteers who assisted with set construction, set changes, props, makeup, costumes, the program and ticket sales. Mermelstein also oversees He’Atid chugim, a fully immersive after school enrichment program that offers He’Atid students not only drama and choir, but robotics, drones, chess, art, yoga, cooking and more.

“Peter Pan” was the first full production ever performed by Yeshivat He ’Atid students. With auditions for the next play already underway, it seems that YH students have caught the acting bug.

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