Woodmont's production of "Peter Pan" is a trip back into the past for Ragland

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Peter Pan, played by Garrett Rollings, and Wendy, played by Ally McCaslin, in a scene from “Peter Pan” in the Wildcat Players production of the popular show. Peter Pan, played by Garrett Rollings, and Wendy, played by Ally McCaslin, in a scene from “Peter Pan” in the Wildcat Players production of the popular show.

During this spring's Wildcat Players production of "Peter Pan," Woodmont High drama teacher Will Ragland could be forgiven for having a feeling of déjà vu.

Ragland is playing Captain Hook, a role he first played 10 years ago at the South Carolina Children's Theatre.

The hook he'll use in the Woodmont production is being made by Greenville artist and blacksmith Ryan Calloway, who was a classmate at Wren Middle and High schools and played soccer and took art classes with Ragland.

And the production features a cast of 100, ranging from five years old to adult, reminiscent of the first play that Ragland directed on the Woodmont High stage as he was building a drama program in the Piedmont area from scratch.

"We're right back where we started from," said Ragland, who will act in a play with his students for the first time.

Ragland, a regular on Greenville community theater stages, had a role in the Children's Theatre's production of "Oliver" in 2002. Another member of the cast happened to be former Greenville County Schools Superintendent Bill Harner, who convinced Ragland he would make a great teacher.

Ragland taught art at Bryson Elementary for a year and then at Sue Cleveland Elementary for four years.

The first play he directed on the Woodmont High stage was "The Wizard of Oz," which featured a cast of 115 elementary, middle and high school students.

For some, it was the first time they had been in – much less been to – live theater.

Ragland has been at Woodmont High for six years. The drama program has become so popular that the school now has two full-time drama teachers. The high school program has gained so much attention that Woodmont Middle has added a theater teacher. The two programs will work closely together.

Ragland will play Captain Hook, a role he played when he was 25.

"I've played roles more than once and I always enjoyed seeing what I can do differently," he said. "The first time I played him like Cyril Ritchard did, the Cathy Rigby version that was a more aristocratic cartoon character. This time, it will be much darker, much more complex, much more frightening, much more grounded in reality. If Neverland is a dream, he's a nightmare."

Ragland approached Calloway to make a hook that would fit his new portrayal of Captain Hook.

"Most of them out there look feminine," he said. "They look like a coat hanger or a question mark."

Calloway will create a "darker, more villainous black hook."

"Each of us found a career in the arts in the Greenville area," Ragland said. "Who would have thought?"

Parents are pitching in to help build the mobile sets, each vastly different from the other, including a giant pirate ship and a multi-level unit where the lost boys live underground.

The Woodmont production will be the non-musical version.

And Peter Pan, played by sixth-grader Garrett Rollings, will fly.

Flying by Foy, a Las Vegas company that specializes in theatrical flight, will be coming to Woodmont in a couple of weeks to help the cast and crew learn how to fly, Ragland said.

"I think we're probably one of the first schools to feature flying in a play," he said. "It's pretty expensive. It will cost more than $6,000."

Ragland said he researched productions of "Peter Pan" that didn't fly but he decided the Woodmont community enjoys entertaining spectacle.

"We're trying to make it as magical as we can," he said.