Liberty Journal

Peter Pan: Alluvion's First Flight

Summer 2012 : By Drew Menard

Alluvion Stage Company took Liberty University’s Department of Theatre Arts to new heights in April with its inaugural show, “Peter Pan,” which brought no shortage of magic, swashbuckling adventure, and singing and dancing to the stage of Tower Theater.

Alluvion, the professional branch of Liberty’s theater department, provides opportunities for students to add a professional credit to their résumé before graduation and allows industry professionals and alumni to collaborate with students for the production.

Because bringing the fantasy of “Peter Pan” to life requires stunts, choreography, and concepts never seen before at Liberty, “Peter Pan” Director Linda Nell Cooper (theater department chair and Alluvion’s artistic director) found it the perfect show for Alluvion’s debut.

To give life to the magic, Alluvion brought in the world-renowned Flying by Foy theatrical flying service. Flight director David Hearn, who designed the flight for Liberty’s show, has multiple Broadway credits, including flying actress Cathy Rigby as Peter Pan.

“It’s a challenge when you have multiple people in the air. It has to be this well-timed out, choreographed event in the sky,” Cooper said of her reason for contracting the company.

Students interested in being on a flight team gained valuable experience while working with the best in the business. A team of 12 students operated the wires during the show.

The imaginative, original concept featured a complex, multi-level set and unique costumes, all designed and constructed by Alluvion’s production team.

“It is an original scenic design – making it appear as a whimsical Neverland. All of the costumes are original, made for each individual actor,” Cooper said.

She added that acting in “Peter Pan” presented its own unique set of challenges, as 18-to-20-year-olds portrayed children and were required to be skilled in dance, combat, and vocals.

“It really takes a cast of triple-threats,” Cooper said.

She explained that the part of Peter Pan, played by senior Caleb Hughes, was extremely strenuous. Hughes only left the stage twice during the three-act play and had to transition from one big dance sequence to the next, all the while singing in the upper range and performing stylized combat.

“This is the most challenging role I have ever done,” Hughes said. “Not because of one single aspect, but because there is so much going on. You have flying and fighting and choreography, as well as the acting and getting into character. Also vocally, it’s a pretty demanding role. All of that combined, it’s pretty tiring.”

The cast performed 15 shows, 10 of which sold out, drawing in more than 8,500 guests.

To help prepare the cast for the complex dance sequences, Alluvion hired a professional choreographer, Liberty alumna Courtney Landwerlen (’11).

Alumnus Chris Nelson (’01), who is a Liberty theatre professor, played the notorious Captain Hook, headlining the five alumni who acted alongside students in the show (in all, a 31-member cast). The show also had a 32-member production staff, made up of students, faculty, and outside professionals, which featured seven alumni.

“I have really enjoyed the fusing of the alumni with the students and how that was such an easy embrace in coming together,” Cooper said. “Theater is about collaboration. Artists can come from different places in the country, different generations, and as soon as we step on that stage, we have a camaraderie, and we are all working toward one goal.”

uipped them for the challenges they will face in the world.

“You leave Liberty with conviction and confidence as your armor,” he said. “You know what you believe. You know who you are. And you know whom you will serve.”

The ceremony, held under sunny skies at Williams Stadium, was the largest ever for Liberty, with more than 34,000 in attendance.

This year, Liberty graduated about 14,000 students, a 25 percent increase over last year. The 2012 graduating class was larger than the total student body of Liberty in 2002. This year’s graduates came from all 50 states and 70 foreign countries. The Class of 2012 included more than 2,000 members of our nation’s armed forces.

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