Arts and Entertainment

Whidbey sisters direct, produce different versions of classic 'Peter Pan'

Among the mermaid ballerinas featured above are Kenna Chism, Elsa Hritz, Makenzie Kuykendal, Emma Patenaude and Shanice Crosby.  - Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times
Among the mermaid ballerinas featured above are Kenna Chism, Elsa Hritz, Makenzie Kuykendal, Emma Patenaude and Shanice Crosby.
— image credit: Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times

Generations of children have grown up watching the adventures of the mischievous Peter Pan and his never-ending childhood on the small island of Neverland, interacting with fairies and pirates and leading his gang of Lost Boys.

Sisters Rusty Hendrix and Diane Geragotelis grew up watching the Mary Martin stage version together. It played once a year on television.

“We used to get in trouble for jumping off the dresser to try to be like Peter Pan,” Hendrix said.

Now as adults, they’re directing their own productions of this J.M Barrie classic.

Hendrix directs the musical version at the Whidbey Playhouse which opens in November. And Geragotelis, owner of the Oak Harbor dance studio, The Ballet Slipper, produced a ballet that’s on stage today and tonight at the Coupeville Performing Arts Center.

“It was just a fluke that we’re putting these together at the same time,” Geragotelis said.

Geragotelis produced the ballet twice before, and decided last August that she wanted an action-filled dance for five of her graduating seniors to end with. Meanwhile, Hendrix recommended the musical at Playday at the theater in January.

Although the formats are completely different, the sisters are following the production they were raised on; the Mary Martin version.

“The biggest difference is that Diane has to the tell the story without using voices, it’s with music and movement,” Hendrix said.

Geragotelis opened her ballet studio 18 years ago and was dancing since she was 10 years old. She went on to dance with the Oakland and San Francisco ballet in California. Hendrix spent her high school years acting for the drama department.

“We must have gotten our creativity from our mom. She acted and danced in Cheshire, England. She received gold acting medals and bronze and silver medals for ballroom dancing,” Hendrix said.

Hendrix said these days she feels more comfortable off-stage directing, and will begin casting for children on Aug. 16 and for adults Aug. 17. The adults will play the Indian and pirate roles, and she’ll cast teenagers to play the mermaids; her only add-on to Martin’s version.

“For the children, I want larger than life personalities. They need to be confident and bold,” she said.

Rehearsals for Geragotelis’ ballet began in January, with a cast of 58 dancers ranging from 4 years old to age 51. Rehearsal time can last five hours each day and depend on the dancer’s experience level.

She’s taken charge of every step of the process, from choreography, to costume-making and stage design. Her favorite part is watching it come to life.

“My sister has an incredible mind. She can imagine 20 people dancing in a scene and which way they’re moving and who they’re playing. I think of hers as being more intricate because they’re doing something I can’t do,” Hendrix said.

Geragotelis will join her cast and play the hungry crocodile, taunting Captain Hook in the Ballet Slipper production.

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