By MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS
TRAVERSE CITY — After two summers in Elk Rapids, professional theater company Parallel 45 is extending its reach.
The company, made up of theater professionals from around the country and, this year, the world — most with ties to northern Michigan — will stage two productions in Traverse City beginning this month.
"Our goal is to have a five-show season year-round," said Executive Director Kit McKay, who started small, with just one show a summer. "We want to take advantage of this sophisticated audience year-round."
The company will stage "The Terrible Tragedy of Peter Pan" Aug. 22-25 at InsideOut Gallery in Traverse City's Warehouse District. The show by Phillip Klapperich is a sort of "Peter Pan" for adults, rated PG-13 for sex, violence and language, McKay said.
"It goes through the journey I relate to in life, in play and individualism and Neverland and the entrance into adulthood and all the weight that comes with it: all the anger, all the fear," said Director Michael Norton, a performer, curator and director in Berlin, who brings new international works to the city. "It does go to a dark place, but it doesn't start there."
In Klapperich's version of the Victorian tale, Peter Pan (Justin Perez, of New York) resists adulthood not because he fears losing the innocence of childhood but because he's scared of the responsibilities and disappointments that come with growing up. Self-absorbed and unaware of the pain he causes others, the play's Peter represents the spoiled, narcissistic "me" generation, Norton said.
"It's talking about the individualism of our generation as something that maybe turned a little sour at the end because we all refused to grow up," he said.
In the revised story, Wendy (Katharine Mangold, of London), Tinkerbell (Jody Burns, of Traverse City) and Captain Hook (Noah Durham, of the Washington, D.C. area) and his pirates all struggle with complex — and contradictory — adult feelings like loyalty versus jealousy and violence versus tenderness.
"We love to take stories that people generally know — Greek myths, classics like 'Our Town' — and that are ready to be retold," said McKay, associate director of the American Dance Institute's Performance Series and a longtime musical theater director at Interlochen Arts Camp.
The company grew out of a 2007 visit between McKay, a lifelong Leland summer resident and 1997 Interlochen Arts Academy graduate, and friend and fellow Academy alum Erin Anderson, an Elk Rapids native.
"I said, 'I want to do beautiful art, but I'm tired of doing it in an ugly setting,'" recalled McKay, then completing her master's degree in directing at Chicago's Northwestern University. "She said, 'Come up north.'"
Three years later, in the summer of 2010, the company made its debut at the Historic Elk Rapids Town Hall. And Anderson, a development officer at Interlochen Center for the Arts, became its president.
McKay said casts receive a stipend but consider the opportunity to return to northern Michigan both a gift and a portion of their pay. Productions are aimed at year-round and summer residents rather than tourists.
"I think of this company as a company for people who love this place and invest in this place," she said. "The artists are always going to come and go. It's the people who live here and own here who give to and get the most from the arts."
This summer's show is packed with "insane technology," from original music, dance and special effects (think fabrics that move) to projection that will fill the space with images, McKay said.
"It just opens up another level of media presentation," said Norton, a 2004 Interlochen Arts Academy graduate and longtime Frankfort summer resident who returns to Benzie County to perform with the professional summertime Lakeside Shakespeare Theatre. "This space has more sophisticated sound and lighting abilities so we're adding a lot of technical elements that P45 hasn't had before."
Tickets for "The Terrible Tragedy of Peter Pan" are $15 and include a "meet-the-cast" reception after the show. A cash bar with wine, beer and coffee also will be available.
To order tickets visit www.treatickets.com or call (800) 836-0717.
For more information about the company, including its first winter workshop for area students or its December production — "A Christmas Carol in Prose" — visit www.parallel45.org.