Alum debuts modern retelling of classic children’s story

June 26, 2014

In November 2013, Avenue Edmonton released its anticipated Top 40 Under 40 list, and MacEwan University was proud to see a number of its alumni and faculty members celebrated for their achievements. Theatre Arts alum Ellen Chorley (pictured above), a whirlwind in the local theatre community, was one of those celebrated individuals, and earning that accolade hasn’t slowed her down.

On June 28 and 29, she premieres Never, Never, a modern retelling of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Ellen wrote the play and created the costumes for Promise Productions, a children’s theatre company that she started in 2006. Never, Never is part of the Common Ground Art Society’s Found Festival.

What is Never, Never about?

The story picks up at the point in J.M. Barrie's story when Wendy tells Peter that she wants to leave Neverland, only in this version of the story, Peter doesn't want Wendy to leave and he makes it very hard for her and her brothers, John and Michael, to go – it’s an “escape from Neverland” story.

Action and adventure are especially prevalent in this play because it is a found space theatre piece – meaning the show takes place in Edmonton’s River Valley and the audience follows the action as the characters move from location to location. It’s kind of like you are inside the story yourself!

What compelled you to write this show?

The inspiration for this piece happened about a year ago when I moved to the Old Strathcona area and spent a lot of time walking around the neighbourhood and the river valley – such a beautiful part of Edmonton! I often found myself drawn to locations, like under the High Level Bridge or the trolley tracks, and would constantly have my imagination run wild on me.

I was also fascinated by the amount of spray paint and graffiti in these areas, it really seemed like there was this wonderful clash between the urban and the rural. All of these elements came together as I started to realize that perhaps in 2014, a mythical place like Neverland might look like the Edmonton river valley, and it wasn't long before I was imagining Lost Boys and pirates right in my own backyard.

Never, Never is riddled with a cast of MacEwan alumni. Was that intentional?

Currently in Never, Never we have eight MacEwan grads – that’s almost half of our production! As a MacEwan grad myself, I am deeply invested in creating opportunities for Theatre Arts grads. I think it is important to foster emerging talent and work with new artists who are excited about their craft. Grads from Theatre Arts have proven to be extremely hard working and it is amazing to have actors that dive head first into a project, especially an experimental project like this one.

What is a major lesson you’ve learned after graduation that you wish to share with future theatre graduates?

See as much theatre as you can. Meet as many artists as you can. Read plays. Don't just wait for something to happen. Make it happen and work hard.

Read more about previous Top 40 Under 40 honourees:

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