Never grow up 

DuffleBag Theatre’s Peter Pan looking for a few good kids

duffelbag.jpg

What: DuffleBag Theatre’s Peter Pan

Whistler Arts Council/MY Place 2004/05 Performance Series

Where: MY Millennium Place

When: Saturday, June 4, 7 p.m.

Tickets: $15/$9.99

Ontario’s DuffleBag Theatre Company recently received praise of the highest order from a young audience member a teacher warned might be a tough sell.

The compliment?

"Boy, that was better than recess!" recounts DuffleBag’s Natalie Robitaille.

Better than recess. Strong words among the grade school set.

DuffleBag must be doing something right.

Formed in 1992, the "Nearly World Famous" theatre company adapts fairy tales and Shakespearean classics as interactive stage shows, performing year round at schools, theatres, festivals and events across Canada and internationally.

The DuffleBag adaptation of Peter Pan will take the stage at Millennium Place this Saturday.

With one troupe member calling the shots as the narrator, DuffleBag performances unfold by recruiting willing members of the audience to round out the cast. Those not called up on stage join in the fun by becoming a Greek chorus of sorts, encouraged to yell out in unison phrases such as "Grow Up!" whenever Peter Pan appears on stage.

The result is a unique, participatory experience that leaves the young audience with a sense of ownership over the production, earning the troupe accolades from kids of all ages.

Robitaille, who will play the narrator in Whistler, has been with DuffleBag for four years, and in that time has toured Canada "from Labrador to the Queen Charlotte Islands."

"Everywhere we go the kids are the same," she says. "Kids just want to be kids and it’s fun to give them that opportunity."

Kids may be kids as Robitaille quips, but it’s a very different world today’s kids live in, even compared to a time as recent as the early 1990s when DuffleBag first started up. Home theatre DVD libraries, the Internet and intricate video games are promoting a more insular childhood; a steady feed of information replacing the need for imagination.

Robitaille said the shift is obvious in feedback sessions, during which audience members have remarked that they liked the troupe’s "movie."

"We really like showing them that this isn’t a movie," she counters, "that this is live theatre, and the difference between a movie and what we do is that we see you and hear you. And you guys can shout things at us and we’re interacting with you, instead of you just watching something on a screen."

"We like kids to use their imagination and they get the opportunity to do that in our show," Robitaille adds. "There’s flying and there’s swordfights and there’s pirates.

"We just like to have fun and we hope everyone else does too."

DuffleBag Theatre was last in Whistler in 2001 and returns with Peter Pan this Saturday evening at Millennium Place. The show begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, and $9.99 for kids with special group rates for purchases of 10 tickets or more available through the MY Place box office at 604-935-8410.

The show concludes the Whistler Arts Council/MY Place 2004/05 Performance Series.

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