The Neverland Players was started around six years ago by a Grinnell student who, while visiting a friend at Northwestern, saw a great children’s theatre production and decided to bring the magic she had found back to Grinnell. Neverland Players is an independent theatre group that transforms stories written by local third and fourth graders into short skits. A cast of Grinnell College students performs the stories on campus for the children as well as other college students. It is a great way to give back to the community and promote the spirit of Grinnell.
The whole process takes about four weeks and begins with an audition session, followed by a week of warm-up acting games, then three weeks of working and shaping the actual stories. The work put into Neverland is very intense and sometimes demanding. That being said, it has to be one of the most de-stressing activities on Grinnell’s campus. The cast and directors get to spend three-hour rehearsals laughing and acting like children. It is a great experience.
I started with Neverland in 2006, my first year at college, after my friend Barbara forced me to audition with her. It was perhaps the best thing I could have done. Immediately, I fell in love with the whole program and realized it was something I wanted to do all four years of my time at Grinnell. I acted in both performances my first year, as well as the single performance my second year. This year, my third year, I returned from studying abroad, and it had been a whole year since a Neverland Show had happened. So together, Barbara and I made the decision to bring Neverland back to Grinnell — better than ever.
The problem this semester was that the theatre department already had many shows planned, and all the “traditional” actors were already committed. Undaunted and unafraid, Barbara and I set out to find the “diamonds in the rough” — those actors who did not know they were actors yet. We assembled an excellent cast of talented and hilarious people. It was the first time Barbara or I had directed, and we had a rough start. However, we quickly learned what worked and what did not. In the end, our actors were fantastic, and we were able to work with them to create something truly beautiful. Our show went up and it featured Zombys (intentional spelling), Icebergs, Dinosaurs, a color-changing girl, and jaguars! The magic of the Neverland Players had been brought back better than ever, and this time it is here to stay.
The Neverland program is fun for everyone involved. While it is built from the foundations of stories written by children, it is important to remember that college students are the ones acting it out. While it always will be for the children first, as directors we make sure there is humor everyone can enjoy. The program is a great opportunity for the College to get involved with the community.
We have no shortage of big ideas either. Barbara and I have plans to begin a “Neverland Writers’ Workshop,” in which we college students will write stories with children, giving them pointers and ideas. We still have much planning to do, but it is something that Neverland is looking forward to exploring.
Overall, Neverland has been one of the greatest things I have done with my college career. It is something that I can look back on and say, “I made a difference.” Neverland is giving children the chance to see their dreams come to life, and that is something very powerful.
Mitch Avitt '10 is a Psychology major from Des Moines, Iowa.