Let Your Imagination Soar at ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’

by Audra Baakari Boyle

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly,

you cease for ever to be able to do it.”

– Peter Pan

A rock band and a question from a five-year-old inspired the novel Peter and the Starcatchers, a prequel to Peter Pan, and its subsequent novels by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie’s classic tale, has taken many forms from the initial novel to a play; from a stage musical to film. Always a magical, mesmerizing tale filled with pirates, adventure and the secret to eternal youth.

Peter Pan, “The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up,” has flown through our imaginations for generations. As Pearson was reading Barrie’s novella to his daughter Paige she asked, “How did Peter meet Captain Hook in the first place?” Pearson also began to wonder, how did this boy end up in Neverland in the first place?

A week later, Pearson was playing bass in Miami with the Rock Bottom Remainders, a rock band of fellow authors including Stephen King, Amy Tan, Scott Turow, Dave Barry and others.

“I was staying with Dave,” Pearson said in an interview with St. Louis Magazine. “I happened to mention this idea of writing a prequel to Peter Pan and he got excited about it and we ended up doing it together.”

The band disbanded in 2012 after the death of its founder and lead singer Kathi Goldmark, but the novel series featuring Peter Pan’s backstory continues to engage readers.

Barry and Pearson wrote an outline explaining how an orphan boy became the incredible Peter Pan. They divided the characters of the story amongst them.

“So it would be less obvious who was writing what,” Pearson said. “The collaboration style followed Barry’s method of writing chapter by chapter, and when a chapter is done, you don’t look back.”

Then their process of “ping pong” began.

A stage full of mermaids in colorful garb in Peninsula Players Theatre’s production of ‘Peter and the Starcatcher.’ Photo by Len Villano.

“If the chapter had mostly my characters, I’d write it,” Barry said in an interview with The Daily Fig. “If they were mostly Ridley’s, he’d write it. When we finished our chapters we’d email them to the other writer, and he’d make whatever changes he wanted, then email it back. We’d keep going back and forth until we were both happy with it.”

Peter and the Starcatchers overturns the Pan legend and takes readers on an unforgettable journey to show how a miserable orphan emerges into Peter Pan. The boy without a name is befriended by a spirited young girl and inspired to defeat a charming yet villainous pirate named Black Stache who is hunting “starstuff.” Starstuff is a celestial substance so powerful that it must never fall into the wrong hands.

“Dave and I never set out to create the prequel to Peter Pan,” Pearson said. “We just set out to write a prequel to Peter Pan. Our world is inhabited by a young man named Peter, some boys that will become the Lost Boys, a girl that is not Wendy, and some material that is called starstuff.”

The success of the novel caught the eye of Tom Schumacher, a producer at Disney Theatrical Productions, and a workshop to adapt the novel to stage was organized in New York. Early in the process directors Roger Rees and Alex Timber realized they needed more scenes and called a writer they both knew, Rick Elice.

Barry and Pearson liked what they heard at the workshop and asked if Elice was going to write the rest of the play. “Yes,” Schumacher said. And that is how Elice fell into the job.

“I wanted to write the play from the perspective of this empowered girl,” Elice said in an interview with “A self-assured, super smart, super curious, not a spectator in her own life, active in her own life story – who teaches this boy how to be a man, really. …I love the idea that this is a girl-power story, really, because the hero of this story is a girl.”

Molly is a starcatcher in training. Starcatchers gather starstuff, dust that clings to meteors falling to earth, and destroy it before its powers can be misused for unscrupulous means. In the play, the number of starcatchers is decreased, thus the “s” was dropped in the play title. In Peter and the Starcatcher, Molly and the boy battle the pirates for control of the starstuff.

Peninsula Players is thrilled to partner with the Door County Library summer reading program by awarding a half-price ticket to children 14 and under who read the novel.

A 2014 study by the Arts Education Partnership focused on the relationship between theater arts and student literacy and mathematical achievement. Results show students whose language arts curricula were infused with theater arts often outperformed their control group counterparts.

“Studies such as these reflect that readers of literature improve their skills in other academic areas and are able to see things from other people’s point of view,” said Managing Director Brian Kelsey. “Peninsula Players’ mission to is to inform our audiences and we are enthusiastic to participate with the Library in the educational growth of Door County’s youth, which in turn enhances everyone’s lives in Door County.”

A free ticket to the play can be earned by engaged readers who read all five novels. Visit your local Door County Library for details or

Door County audiences can discover the Neverland they never knew at Peninsula Players July 5 through July 23. The Tony Award-winning Peter and the Starcatcher features 12 actors portraying more than 100 characters on a hilarious, swashbuckling adventure that will entrance, energize and excite. For more information on the Peninsula Players production of Peter and the Starcatcher, call the Box Office at 920.868.3287 or visit


Audra Baakari Boyle is the Peninsula Players Business Manager and believes that thinking of the happiest things is the same as having wings.

Peninsula Arts and Humanities Alliance, Inc., which contributes Culture Club throughout the summer season, is a coalition of nonprofit organizations whose purpose is to enhance, promote and advocate the arts, humanities and natural sciences in Door County.


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