The costumed cast of "Peter Pan" poses on stairs.

The magical cast and crew of “Peter Pan.”

Firstly I just want to say, hats off to the Theater and Dance Department!

Teachers called out instructions. Students scurried between the theater and the bathroom. Ushers gesticulated wildly towards the front door, willing everyone to get inside and take their seats.

I tried to keep all of them sane and organized, as a theatrical house manager is meant to do, with little more than a prayer and a pirate hat.

Although cramming hundreds of elementary aged students into a theater is no easy feat, it’s one that’s been a Winona State University tradition for decades. All of the posters from these productions were lined along the PAC walkway in honor of “Peter Pan,” last week, and some of these dated back to the sixties.

Vivian Fusillo has directed all of these plays, along with many others at Winona State University, and “Peter Pan” was her last. Patrons congratulated Fusillo on her retirement last week during the evening performances, but she laughed and referred to it as her “graduation” instead. For her, the production seemed to be a celebration rather than a good bye.

The children attending matinees of “Peter Pan,” however, had no knowledge of the production’s finality. They were more concerned with the magical elements of the show, from the moment they walked through the door to the moment they left.

While I stood in the lobby, kindergarteners and fifth graders alike regaled me with their favorite characters or moments from the show. Some thought the pirates were “kind of hilarious,” while others were more impressed with the crocodile and the flying effects. However, the general consensus was both positive and enthusiastic. Kids loved the production. For the cast and crew, who sacrificed four days of class to put put on eight free matinees elementary schools, reactions like these made everything worthwhile.

This was my first and last time working as house manager for one of Vivian Fusillo’s children’s shows, and even though it was difficult to herd such a large quantity of children, the experience was worthwhile. I developed an entirely new set of skills, which included organizing potty breaks and kid-friendly programs, while learning through first-hand experience.

Though my duties were unique, I know that many other first-time actors and technicians learned skill sets all their own.

Thanks to the theater department at Winona State University, my peers and I got to create a magical world for elementary school students. I’ll tip my pirate hat to that.