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Sewickley Academy senior adapts century-old 'Peter Pan'

Bobby Cherry
| Wednesday, May 18, 2016, 5:57 p.m.
Sewickley Academy senior Kate Busatto stands for a photo inside the academy's costume room Monday, May 16, 2016. Busatto adapted the senior school play 'Peter and the Wolf Children' from J.M. Barrie's original 'Peter Pan.'
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Sewickley Academy senior Kate Busatto stands for a photo inside the academy's costume room Monday, May 16, 2016. Busatto adapted the senior school play 'Peter and the Wolf Children' from J.M. Barrie's original 'Peter Pan.'
Jane Blaugrund perfoms as Tinker Bell alongside castmates during a rehearsal for fight scene in Sewickley Academy's 'Peter and the Wolf Children' at the school Monday, May 16, 2016. 'Peter and the Wolf Children' was adapted from J.M. Barrie's original 'Peter Pan' by academy senior Kate Busatto.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Jane Blaugrund perfoms as Tinker Bell alongside castmates during a rehearsal for fight scene in Sewickley Academy's 'Peter and the Wolf Children' at the school Monday, May 16, 2016. 'Peter and the Wolf Children' was adapted from J.M. Barrie's original 'Peter Pan' by academy senior Kate Busatto.
McKayla Cox (left) and Jane Blaugrund perform as Wendy and Tinker Bell, respectively, during a rehearsal for Sewickley Academy's 'Peter and the Wolf Children' at the school Monday, May 16, 2016. 'Peter and the Wolf Children' was adapted from J.M. Barrie's original 'Peter Pan' by academy senior Kate Busatto.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
McKayla Cox (left) and Jane Blaugrund perform as Wendy and Tinker Bell, respectively, during a rehearsal for Sewickley Academy's 'Peter and the Wolf Children' at the school Monday, May 16, 2016. 'Peter and the Wolf Children' was adapted from J.M. Barrie's original 'Peter Pan' by academy senior Kate Busatto.
McKayla Cox (left) and Todd Doyle perform as Wendy and Peter Pan, respectively, during a rehearsal for Sewickley Academy's 'Peter and the Wolf Children' at the school Monday, May 16, 2016. 'Peter and the Wolf Children' was adapted from J.M. Barrie's original 'Peter Pan' by academy senior Kate Busatto.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
McKayla Cox (left) and Todd Doyle perform as Wendy and Peter Pan, respectively, during a rehearsal for Sewickley Academy's 'Peter and the Wolf Children' at the school Monday, May 16, 2016. 'Peter and the Wolf Children' was adapted from J.M. Barrie's original 'Peter Pan' by academy senior Kate Busatto.

Countless hours of research, writing and development come to a close tonight as a Sewickley Academy senior prepares for opening night of her first play adaptation.

Senior Kate Busatto's “Peter and the Wolf Children” opens May 19 at the private Edgeworth school's Gregg Theater and continues through Sunday.

The show follows the story of J.M. Barrie's original “Peter Pan” play from 1904 but under Busatto's lead, theater-goers will find plots of post-World War II Lithuania intertwined.

The show opens in a post-war Lithuania, where three Darling children are wandering in search of a new life.

The children find themselves under the care of Peter Pan who guides them to the fantasy world of Neverland. But after war, not even Neverland is much of an oasis.

“I began researching historical orphans,” Busatto said. “I found the story of the wolf children who ended up inhabiting the woods of Lithuania after World War II.

“While a lot of the characters and major plot are original to ‘Peter Pan,' some plots and intimate scenes are my own.”

Sewickley Academy artistic Director Matthew Griffin said one of the “many clever things” Busatto included in this rendition of “Peter Pan” is “how she allows such a relatively small cast, with such a grand vision, spring up naturally, while also underscoring some of the main themes of the play.”

He said Busatto “has taken a clever route here to achieve invention.”

Through her research, Griffin said Busatto has found “variations that confirm her own vision of the play as a deep, sensitive story of vulnerable children in an uncertain, changing world.”

“She doesn't sentimentalize the legacy as a fly-happy, ‘Disneyfied,' frolic. She has stuck to a single voice aimed to the original intent” but “used a historical allegory present just after the time of his writing, to shed light on his meaning.”

Busatto said student-actors, of which there are 14, helped adjust the script.

“They'll stop me and say a line isn't working for them,” she said. “They've been helpful and we've discovered so many great things about the characters through that process.”

She's excited for her parents to see the show.

“I hope my parents like it,” she said. “They haven't read the script. They know a little bit about it, but other than that I've tried to keep it a surprise from them.”

Busatto said audition day was “a really strange moment,” having been the first time her written words were acted out.

“It's odd to have spent so much time writing things down for characters without actors,” she said. “Then to finally add the bodies and the minds and the hearts of real actors, it adds an extra dimension that's so powerful.”

Having been in nine shows during her time at the academy, Busatto said she had a lot of apprehension when she started writing the script for this production.

“There's always a fear when you start a new project — that I wouldn't finish, that it wouldn't turn out to be the product you like, that nobody would want to see it,” she said. “It's surreal for me that people are going to come see something I adapted.”

Bobby Cherry is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rcherry@tribweb.com.

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