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‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ Stays Green on Stage

January 16th, 2015 by admin

One person’s trash is another person’s Tony® Award  especially for scenic designer Donyale Werle and costume designer Paloma Young. The Peter and the Starcatcher creative duo received 2012 Tony Awards for their inspired work on the vibrantly original Disney Theatrical Group production, in which they repurposed discarded objects and rubbish to create a magical, environmentally friendly ambiance.

“Costume designers have been salvaging things for years,” Paloma says. “We don’t throw things out at the end of every show.” With each incarnation of the Peter and the Starcatcher —most everything was recycled. peter pic 1

“We were driving around one day on a trash run, and there was a bodega that had smoke coming out of it,” Donyale says. “The doors had been removed and put on the sidewalk because they were scorched, and we thought they would make the perfect transom. They were still warm from the fire when we grabbed them, and for the entire first run of the show, there was a smell of charred wood.” Recycled and sustainable materials have long been integral to Donyale’s set designs, and she uses them in delightful ways in Peter and the Starcatcher, a show, she says, that is “about creating something out of nothing.”

Based on the novel Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, this play with music is a grownup’s prequel to Peter Pan. But more than that—thanks to a smart, funny book by Rick Elice, and the wildly inventive direction of Roger Rees and Alex Timbers—the show is also a celebration of the imagination. A dozen actors take on more than 100 characters in the production. Locations, like a ship or an island, are suggested rather than defined, often with little more than a piece of rope and savvy lighting.

The one defined space is the proscenium, a gateway into the show’s fantasy world. “We felt we needed a framework, like a portal, to tell the story,” Donyale explains. “The proscenium serves that purpose here; it puts us in a recognizable, Victorian musical hall. And we created the proscenium with trash.” More than 3,500 corks, 800 bottle caps and 300 pieces of cutlery, as well as toys, ropes, beads, cooking timers and tools, tops of cans, zippers, CDs, vinyl records, bamboo sticks and mannequin arms, to be exact.

peter pic 2Both Donyale and Paloma are also pleased that children contributed some of the items that are used in the show’s design and decorations. “A little bottle cap that a kindergartner collected a few years ago is now going to be touring the country and seen by thousands and thousands of people,” Paloma adds. “I think that embodies what this show does. It celebrates performing and the imagination, and how far a small gesture can go.”

By Janelle Tipton, The Walt Disney Studios – November 25, 2013

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Behind the scenes – The Shubert holiday window paper sculpture tribute along Chapel Street

January 5th, 2015 by admin

I was very excited to be approached by the Shubert Theatre to continue the paper sculpture project on Chapel Street for the second year. The project involved 12 different shops and clients, and we were only given three weeks to complete the work. I called a meeting of Paier College students and explained to them that this would be a very unusual three weeks, but anyone DSCN2880 DSCN2881who wanted to be involved in the project was welcome to sign on. We had 30 people who joined in, dedicating the majority of their time to the project for that period.   Figuring out which show would fit which client was very challenging … and interesting. After we had meetings with every owner, we jumped to the drawing stage, creating thumbnails of ideas. Hull’s was very helpful in providing art materials. We bought all the glue they had and piles of paper; then the cutting began!100th in lobby 1

The three weeks went by as if it were one day. Some students were even sleeping at school. After a lot of coffee and pizza and paper cuts, the work was finally done 15 minutes before we had to install it. Now, it is all history, and you can see the result of our collaboration along the streets of New Haven!


— Vlad Shpitalnik


Vladimir Shpitalnik – Professor in Illustration – Paier College of Art, Hamden, CT