Story by Lisa Rice
A reading of The Neverland Plays, a play written by Sydney Helen Egan, was performed at the Albert Wisner Public Library on Fri., Jan. 4. The trilogy of one-act plays is an original storyline based on the characters of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.
“It was originally a part of an assignment for my playwriting class last year,” said Egan, 21, a junior at Marymount Manhattan College majoring in theatre arts with a concentration in writing for the stage. After one of her classmates wrote a scene loosely based on Tarzan, it made her wonder why she never wrote anything based on Peter Pan, a favorite story. “So, for our next assignment, a ten page scene including dramatic irony, I wrote the first scene,” said Egan.
After the assignment, Egan continued writing the story, which developed into a coming of age trilogy that explores depression, grief, love, peer pressure, sexual development, and anxiety.
“What I learned in class prepared me most to write this. I had the skills to write when I first started out, but I needed to better them in order to write a good play. Opinions from my classmates and my teacher helped to perfect what I wrote,” Egan said.
The Neverland Plays – A Trilogy
The Neverland Plays begins with Peter Pan and Tinkerbell returning to the Darling nursery after an absence of many years. Instead of finding Wendy and her brothers, they meet Wendy’s daughter, Jane. The trio returns to Neverland, where Jane meets several lost boys and Peter faces his subconscious, in the guise of Captain Hook.
Part Two begins the following day, back in London at the Darling home. Peter has decided to return and finally “grow up.” Jane and her father aid Peter in finding a home with a neighbor, who turns out to be much more familiar to Peter than originally thought.
The final part is one year later and takes place in high school. Peter is having a lot of difficulty with the school administration and is a frequent target of mischief by a classmate. Peter and Jane, now a couple, also have to deal with peer pressure and expectations of their “friends”.
From the Printed Page to the Live Reading
“I was writing a lot of this play during the summer and was talking with a lot with friends and family about maybe doing a reading if I ended up finishing it, which I did,” said Egan. “My mom suggested doing the reading at the library over the winter break, because at the time I wasn’t sure of any place in New York City that would let a college student do a staged reading of her play. I emailed the library telling them about the play asking if I could do a reading. When I was told that I could, we arranged a date and time and I began getting a cast together.”
Egan reached out to friends and leveraged social media to spread the word about the reading and get a sense on who might be available to participate. “I’m part of a Facebook group that posts about auditions in New York City and I added a post there. I reached out to other actors I knew that worked with my friends in the past.”
Egan has previously acted with the Warwick Valley High School Drama Club, the Acting Out Playhouse, and the Sugarloaf Performing Arts Center. Through that experience, as well as her college contacts, she has a wide network of actors.
The cast for the reading was comprised both of local actors as well as some who traveled quite a distance for the reading. Egan herself portrayed Jane Hall, Wendy Darling’s teenage daughter. Ian Ball, a Warwick resident and a junior at Point Park University, was cast as Peter Pan. These are the only two actors who played the roles through the entirety of the trilogy. Playing a different role in each part of the play, the supporting cast was comprised of college students: Haley Gould, Marymount Manhattan; Connor Atkinson, SUNY Fredonia; Hayley St. James, a sophomore at Marymount Manhattan; Margaret DeLucia, a junior at Muhlenburg; Derek Etter, a freshman at Point Park; and NYC-based actors, Jennifer Ann Ruskowski and Belle Goodman. Egan cast the actors based on their availability to travel to Warwick as well as whether they had the right look for one of the three roles they would be playing.
Neverland’s Next Adventure
The performance was advertised through Facebook and the library newsletter and Egan placed flyers around the community. The reading was very well attended and will be available to view on The Neverland Plays page on Facebook. And what comes next for The Neverland Plays and Sydney Egan?
“Well, I’m going to continue doing rewrites with it to see if anything needs to be changed,” she said. “I hope to try getting it produced in New York City and published. My next step is to just continue perfecting it until it is produced fully with lights, costumes, sound, and everything. I would like to be a playwright in the future. It’ll be tough; it will take awhile for me to really make a steady living, but I am going to work hard to get myself produced in New York.”