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Local director takes the stage in 'Peter and the Starcatcher'

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For someone used to giving frequent advice and direction, Tremper High School theater director Nic Cicerale has spent most of his summer learning instead of teaching.

Cicerale brushed up on his acting skills with a leading role in the Tony Award-winning play “Peter and the Starcatcher,” opening for a two-weekend run 7 p.m. Friday at the Racine Theatre Guild, 2519 Northwestern Ave.

The “Peter Pan” prequel is a tale of how an unnamed orphan becomes a flying immortal.

The boy (played by Evan Klinkhammer) and an aspiring starcatcher, Molly (played Jenna Zeihen), land in the company of pirates, a giant crocodile and angry natives while attempting to return a trunk of precious items.

The play, based on the best-selling children’s novel, opened in 2012 on Broadway and won five Tony Awards. It is described as a play with music, not necessarily a musical, with plenty of comedic moments.

Black Stache (Cicerale), a pirate chief, is a villain hoping for great things — and has a hook in his future.

“The play sets up the whole world of Peter Pan and the Never Never Land and how Tinkerbell came to be,” Cicerale said. “It’s pretty detailed and has a nice message. It stands alone. It’s not just setting up another story. It’s very encouraging and family friendly with a lot of comedy and emotional scenes as well.”

Cicerale is entering his 12th year at Tremper. When he learned the school’s studio theater would be under construction this summer, he decided to find another venue to keep him occupied. He auditioned for the first time at the Racine Theatre Guild and earned a leading role under director Kara Ernst-Schalk.

In addition to directing several shows during the school year, Cicerale said he typically performs in one play a year. He played Captain Flint in PM&L Theatre’s “Treasure Island” last September in Antioch, Ill.

“When you direct for some time, you kind of get into your own habits of how to do things,” Cicerale said. “Any time you work with other directors, it opens your eyes to different methods, from setting up a rehearsal to communicating with people. It’s been fantastic working with Kara. She’s so on top of it. If something doesn’t work, she’s got an alternative plan right behind it.”

Ernst-Schalk said she has benefited from working with such an experienced cast.

Klinkhammer is a veteran performer at Horlick High School in Racine. Zeihen, a 2017 Bradford High School graduate, held roles in many Kenosha Unified productions.

“The entire cast is seasoned actors,” Ernst-Schalk said. “I keep calling them my dream cast and crew. It’s nice to be able to come in and just direct traffic. Everybody else brings their own sense of character and creativity to the project. I can sit back and watch and make sure all the parts are fitting together.”

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