Rhett Guter as Boy in Peter and the Starcatcher
Rhett Guter is a native of southern Utah and is in his seventh season with the Festival. In 2011, he choreographed The Music Man. This season, he’s playing Boy in Peter and the Starcatcher and choreographing both that play and Anything Goes. We talked with him about his role as Boy.
Tell us about your preparation to play Boy.
I read the Peter and the Starcatchers book; I reread J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan . I didn’t want to see the Disney animated film or Hook. I wanted to take the original material, to see where Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson had drawn the line for the book and then where Rick Elice had skewed it for the play. I wanted to concentrate on what Rick Elice has created as a ramp into the role.
Do you feel pressure because it’s the regional premiere?
Yes - It’s a lot of responsibility, playing a title role and choreographing the big push of the season. I love this company so I want it to do really well. I want this show to just soar. I want people to come away and go “wow that was incredible and that’s where theatre is going now.”
It’s a great show to introduce kids to what theatre is and that’s why it’s unique and a special experience. It takes advantage of our tools as actors and theatrical artists. It leverages the story in a way that no other medium can. There’s something about the minimalistic nature of it; we need you, the audience, to use your imagination and take part in the story. We’ll put the skeleton there, but if you flesh it out it will become really something special. Each person will see it differently.
What do you mean by “minimalistic?”
We use a rope for a lot of the show to create doorways, windows, ship halls and it creates a suggestion of an atmosphere. The actors and the lighting support that suggestion and then for the rest the audience has to use their imagination. We even start the play by saying, “we ask you now to use your imagination on this gray and misty morning...”
There’s a scene where 2 ships crash into each other and people get off and then one ship splits in half and people are talking to each other from different sides of the deck. It sounds like a tech nightmare, but we’ve staged it in a way where we ask you to use your imagination.
And it sounds as if this role and the Festival are special for you?
It’s really cool to play the Boy and come back home - the theme about Peter and his identity. The people, the experiences here, working with Peter Sham and Brad Carroll and becoming involved with the Festival, really shaped a lot of who I am, especially as an artist and my career path. So it’s wonderful to come back and play this role here because a lot of it is very personal and very close to home.
Peter starts as the Boy and doesn’t become Peter until the end. It’s his interaction with Molly that changes him. That’s the most brilliant change from the book. Come see the show. I think Peter is going to be a special experience. People should come and bring their loved ones, their families, their children. It will be a tremendous experience.
You can see Peter and the Starcatcher July 2 through October 18. Tickets are available online at www.bard.org or by calling 800-PLAYTIX. You can learn more about the play at http://www.bard.org/plays/peter2013.html
Photos by Karl Hugh. Copyright Utah Shakespeare Festival 2013