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Annie Williams is producing the musical Peter Pan with the ambition of Cecil B. De Mille and a budget that she places at “well, zero.” She’s directing 50 actors on four huge sets placed around the deep end of Mount Rainier’s 50-meter pool. “I cast every kid who auditioned,” she explains. “I created a massive children’s chorus of magical creatures, Indians, and mermaids.”
Williams recently moved to Mount Rainier from California, where she did outdoor theater every summer, including The King and I in the seal pit of the San Diego Zoo.
Williams is hacking deep, should-be-in-bed coughs as she prepares for a Saturday rehearsal at Joe’s Movement Emporium. The two adults and three children playing the Darling family are rehearsing the opening scene: All are still “on book,” scripts in hand, except for 6-year-old Hal Erickson, who needs an occasional prompt. His mother, Mary Beth Shea, is sewing costumes in the corner as Williams blocks the scene. Shea says that Hal is just starting to read, that he learned his lines by watching the TV special of the Mary Martin production over and over.
Patty Krauss and Brooke Kidd are choreographing the five dance numbers, and because ropes can’t be rigged outside, people wearing black will lift the actors for the flying scenes. Set designer Alan Bernstein has created a 6-foot-square house for Wendy, a pirate ship, a platform for the Indian dance, and a multitiered nursery. The pool and the greenery surrounding it will be lit by Helen Hayes nominee Dan Covey, who is squeezing in his donated time around Hamlet at the Folger.
Sculptor Susan Andrews is building a huge floating crocodile head that will be pushed around the pool from the inside. A different guest star will walk the plank during each of the four performances, among them Mount Rainier Mayor Fred Sissine and Source Theatre Artistic Director (and Washington City Paper opera critic) Joe Banno. But the splashiest scene, Williams says, is “when the Indians sneak up on the pirates on tubes, rafts, noodles, whatever floats….I’ve done theater for 20 years, but this is the first audition that included a swimming test.”—Virginia Vitzthum
Peter Pan runs Aug. 26 to 29. Tickets are $8 (adults) and $6 (children under 12) in advance, $10 and $8 at the door. The pool is at 34th and Buchanan Streets in Mount Rainier. Call (301) 699-1819 for details.