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CHILDREN'S THEATER : Let 'Em Entertain You--Even if This 'Pan' Is Kids' Stuff

November 16, 1989|CORRINE FLOCKEN

LAGUNA HILLS — Poor Captain Hook. If it weren't for some bum luck in the name department, he might have been a peach of a guy.

That is the way Saul Siedman, director of the Peter Pan Players children's theater group sees it. This weekend, Siedman and his 25-member cast put a new twist on an old favorite with their performance of "Peter Pan" at Iglesia Park here.

"I remember going to children's plays years ago, and the nicest thing I could say about them was, 'Aren't they cute?' " said Siedman, 70. "I decided if I ever did this, it was going to be more than cute. My main goal is for the shows to be entertaining, whether you're 6 or 60."

To that end, Siedman, a retired fashion show coordinator and community theater buff, has punched up James Matthew Barrie's classic tale with a few laughs. Consider this dittie he created for the devilish Hook:

Look, with a name like Hook, I gotta be bad

'Tis true, but golly gee, it's also sad.

Why couldn't my name be Fauntleroy?

Oh boy, what a joy. Fauntleroy .

He continues:

I'm really a sweet, gentle lad.

But with a name like Hook, I gotta be bad.

I rant and rave and act like a villain,

But I wouldn't harm a hair of those sweet li'l chillun,


Kind of puts the guy in a whole new light, doesn't it?

Siedman, who founded the Peter Pan Players in 1986, said a little humor goes a long way in keeping parents, as well as kids, coming back for more. In past seasons, audiences have giggled as Cinderella danced to rock 'n' roll at the king's ball, and Snow White swapped wisecracks with the seven dwarfs.

With very little budget (the troupe received some money from the county Department of Harbors, Beaches and Parks) and with the help of a few dedicated adults, the Peter Pan Players has staged two classic children's plays a year for the last three years at Iglesia Park. Parents volunteer their time to build scenery, rustle up props and build costumes. At show time, they sell tickets, work as stagehands and hawk refreshments.

"My theory is that behind the curtain and on stage, I'm in charge," Siedman said. "But what happens on the other side of the curtain--that's the parents' responsibility. And they handle it well."

Any county schoolchild can take part in the Peter Pan Players, said Siedman, who established a similar program in South Gate in the early 1980s. After every performance, audience members can sign up to audition for the next play.

Although Siedman offers no formal classes, he said working with the Players has prompted many of his young actors to enroll in professional theater training programs, and several regularly audition for TV commercials.

Siedman has trod the boards a time or two himself. He has acted and directed in several plays by the Leisure World Theatre Guild and appeared in the Saddleback College production of "Barefoot in the Park."

But he said he finds working with children especially fulfilling: "It's a selfish thing, really. I love theater, and I love kids. . . . I have six grandchildren, but they're in San Francisco. So I tell the parents that when I'm here, these kids are all my grandchildren."

"Peter Pan" will be presented by the Peter Pan Players in the Iglesia Park community room Saturday at 1 and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 1 and 4 p.m. Tickets are $1 for adults, 50 cents for children under 12. The park is at 24671 Via Iglesia in Laguna Hills. For information, call (714) 830-8318.

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