BWW Interview: Kristin Storla Brings the Magic of PETER PAN to the Center for Puppetry Arts

BWW Interview: Kristin Storla Brings the Magic of PETER PAN to the Center for Puppetry Arts

"It breaks my heart in a beautiful way, when at the end of every show, Peter has a line, 'When people grow up, they forget how to fly."'To me, it hearkens back to the inevitability of growing up and maturing. There's this great theme throughout of just trying to latch on to your childhood and the magic of it, that I think really resonates with adults." - Kristin Storla

The boy who wouldn't grow up is coming to life in an extraordinary way at the Center for Puppetry Arts this month. Set with a modern spin, CPA's PETER PAN sees Wendy as an inventor working on her latest endeavor, a flying machine. BroadwayWorld sat down to chat with Kristin Stola, the multitalented performer who puppets and voices multiple characters, including Peter himself. Below, check out our conversation with multitalented puppeteer Kristin Storla as she shares her insights about the collaborative art form of puppeting, what makes this production special, and why this beloved children's tale strikes a chord with all ages.


We're excited to have PETER PAN at the Center for Puppetry Arts! Can you tell me a little about the production?

We take the story of PETER PAN that we all know and love, but definitely put our own twist on it. make it a little more modern, and its set more in today's timeframe. ndy is an inventor who is trying to invent her own flying machine, which is pretty cool. And then, we go into Neverland. That story mostly stays the same, because it's so great as is. But we definitely have a more modern flair to it, in terms of where the Darling children are coming from, which is really fun.


That sounds like such an interesting take! What does it end up looking like?

One thing that really helps build the world that we're living in is that we're puppeting in blacklight. All of the set pieces and puppets are covered in a blacklight tank, and we perform in darkness. The puppeteers work head to toe covered in black, so you can't see us at all. That really helps us to make the world pop in a way I've never seen before, which is really great. I think having that medium of the blacklight allows us to manipulate the puppets in a totally different manner. It really brings a fresh new light to the whole story we all know.

BWW Interview: Kristin Storla Brings the Magic of PETER PAN to the Center for Puppetry Arts

How has your experience with this show been?

It's been so great. This is my fourth or fifth production working with the Center for Puppetry Arts. We're producing puppet shows all year round. We even bring in guest artists who perform here as well. There's so many talented artists here - from the people in the shop, to our directing team, to our set builders, to the folks down in the museum, everyone has such a great awareness for what this craft is. Starting out as a newer puppeteer, everyone who has been here working has been very friendly and giving tips. It's very collaborative, and I'm amazed by the amount of talent in this building.

It sounds like a great group to work with and a community feeling!

Definitely. More so than a lot of other styles of theatre I've done, there's no ego in puppetry that I've come across. The craft is key. You have to be so hyper aware of what your puppet is doing at all times, and how your puppet is relating to the set pieces or to other characters in the story. So your focus must be 100%, and because of that the high mindset that puppeteers need to have is crucial. And many times, I'll be puppeting a character that I'm not voicing, so I need to imbue it with that physical trait that the other performer has already established. And there's other times that someone else is pupetting Peter, while I'm just doing the voice. It's definitely a group effort.

With puppeteering, how does characterization work through your voice and through your hands?
Each are so important to establishing what the character is. Our director [Tim Sweeney] is great, and he's performed in the show as Peter himself, so it's been great to get some nuggets of info from him. But we really stress the intention. Yes, we're doing this as a puppet show, but these are real characters and we want to imbue that reality to our audience, otherwise they won't believe it. So we really stress the intention and the believability of these characters. When it comes to the minutia of the manipulation, that's why we have hours and hours of rehearsal time to really lock these moments in. Because if you fumble something and Peter Falls behind a playboard, it could be like he just died, you don't know! We take the time to make sure that its right.

I love how much you're saying "We," because I feel like usually with the creation of a stage show, it's really the director's show. But it seems like it's a little bit different for you all.

Absolutely. We all have such a sense of ownership for the production. I can't stress how much of an ensemble piece it really is. Outside of someone puppeting your character that you may not have in hand. At times there's three of us all manipulating one puppet. You definitely have to be a team member for that kind of work. Captain Hook is gnarly - he definitely needs all hands on deck (pun intended)!

I feel like usually, people think of puppet shows as very much for kids. It sounds like with the amount of craft that's gone into this production, I wouldn't say this is just a children's spectacle. What would you say to that?
It's fair to say that its people's perception coming into it. Thankfully with this show, especially PETER PAN, is a children's show but adults can also get a lot out of it too. It breaks my heart in a beautiful way, when at the end of every show, Peter has a line, "When people grow up, they forget how to fly." To me, it hearkens back to the inevitability of growing up and maturing. There's this great theme throughout of just trying to latch on to your childhood and the magic of it, that I think really resonates with adults. It really has been a nice journey. It's good for kids, and I'd say it's really for ages 4 and up for this production.

But outside of that, Center for Puppetry Arts is also producing works for adults. For Halloween, we're doing a production called Ghastly Dreadfuls - definitely for adults 18 and up! We all have been exposed to puppetry from a young age, as we all grew up on Sesame Street, so our love for that craft doesn't die. The older we get, there's still magic to be found within this art form.


Peter Pan will be presented in the Mainstage Theater, September 25 - October 28. Reduced-price previews take place Tuesday, September 25 and Wednesday, September 26 at 10 a.m. and noon. The regular show schedule is as follows:

Wednesday - Friday: 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
Saturday: 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Sunday: 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

The Center for Puppetry Arts is continuing its dedication to programming for patrons with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) on Sunday, October 7 with sensory-friendly modifications to the 1 p.m. performance as well as in the Museum from noon-1 p.m. and in the Create-A-Puppet Workshops from 1:45-2:30 p.m. The Center will also provide a quiet room, social stories, noise-reducing headphones and fidget toys for guests wishing to use those resources. For details, visit puppet.org/asd.

All-inclusive ticket prices vary but start at $9.75 (Members) and $19.50 (nonmembers) and include entrance to the Create-A Puppet Workshop, where guests can make, decorate and perform with their own Cranky Crocodile Ultraviolet Puppet, as well as admission to the Worlds of Puppetry Museum, featuring the largest collection of Jim Henson puppets in the world as well as a global gallery. Tickets can be purchased online at puppet.org or by calling 404.873.3391

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