Joel Barlow High School senior Thomas Ordway has been in the theater program’s winter show all three years of his high school career. Now in his senior year, Thomas has taken on a new role as co-director, alongside Diana Canova, a Broadway actor.
Twenty-five Barlow students, including Thomas, have adapted J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan into their own interpretation, connecting the classic story with The Cellist of Sarajevo to create Peter Pan: The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up.
“I was looking at writing music for Peter Pan for my own project,” said Thomas.
And after approaching Ms. Canova about doing Peter Pan for the winter show, Ms. Canova said she didn’t want to do Peter Pan in just 45 minutes, so she suggested the Sarajevo addition, said Thomas.
The Cellist of Sarajevo is Vedran Smajlovic, a cellist who played in dilapidated buildings from 1992 to 1996 during the siege of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Both Thomas and Ms. Canova provided initial direction and ideas, but when they came to a point where they needed suggestions, members of the ensemble gave input, they said.
“This was a complete ensemble creation. Every kid had input to what’s being seen,” said Ms. Canova.
The links to Sarajevo in the play are the cellist playing throughout the performance, the setting and the costumes.
Thomas designed the costumes the cast would wear and adapted them to the 1994 setting of the siege in Sarajevo, he said.
“We’re working on making it all connect,” he said. “The pirates are the military, the lost boys are the orphans and later we added in the mermaids.”
The set is minimalist, said Ms. Canova.
“Less set is better,” she said. “It’s also the point of what can we travel with.”
The play is being submitted to the Connecticut Drama Association festival in March. The students will travel to Old Saybrook for two days and watch other high schools’ plays and attend workshops and an awards ceremony.
Thomas said he looks forward to seeing other schools’ plays and always comes back “inspired.”
“Any show can be entered into the festival, so it’s different every time,” he said.
Opening night for Peter Pan: The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up is Thursday, Feb. 14, from 8 to 9 p.m. with a second show on Friday, Feb. 15.