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Never-Neverland Productions

Home Workshops Special Shows Edison Public Access Domestic Violence Cultural Centers

Mission Statement



Mission Statement

Children perform for children, playing in an organized and coherent way to learn and gain life experience through theater.



1. To produce serious children’s theater using: historical theater, literary history and multicultural theater elements. Children learn the history and culture of each play while reading the script so that they can understand and experience the literature, history, and culture of that region, adding to their human experience.

·        The children learn the history behind stories such as: “Cinderella”, “Rumplestiltskin” and “The Monkey King”.


2. To help children learn to love learning.

·        Children who are recognized and applauded for their accomplishments tend to want to continue to participate in the activities for which they have been rewarded.


3. To help anyone who participates reach their theatrical and personal potentials. Arts and humanities are critical building blocks for a child’s development. Children work on improving and discovering their skills in: vocabulary, critical thinking, perspective, empathy, bravery and confidence, wisdom, understanding of motivations, coping mechanisms, character and character development, and public speaking. Children take a little piece of each character into life.

·        The original text is used, keeping all the difficult vocabulary and nuisances in style.

·        Shakespearean theater projection techniques are taught. Children become confident in their ability to express themselves.


 4. To help children grow up strong, intelligent, wise, and empathic.

·        Participation in theater creates productive outlets for the limitless energy that children have, increasing their ability to make better choices in their lives. 

·        “Hansel and Gretal” face insurmountable odds and are victorious in the end. However, they don’t go back to the parents who keep leaving them in the woods. Overcoming a scary situation, they stay at the gingerbread house and Aunt Bessie comes to live with them.


5. To learn to use puppets, masks, and acting through expressive body language.

·        Wayang Golemn puppets are used to learn puppet movement and dance.


6. To celebrate humanity and the human spirit is more important than the technical perfection of a work. Having fun is the main priority.

·        The focus here is enjoying the process


Interactive Children’s Theater

These productions take two to four months to produce. Never-Neverland Productions has been presenting two plays a year for the last five years. There have been nine productions, involving ninety- two children actors who have performed for over five thousand people. The Children’s Theater is performed by children for children and audience members to watch and participate in. The ages of participants range from four to twenty-one. Tryouts are open to anyone willing to get on the stage, and anyone who tries out is given a part according to their ability. Even shy children who can’t read find a space to learn and grow in the Children’s Theater. Acting students from Piqua High School and Edison Community College can participate in the program for college credit.


By producing interactive children’s theater, the audience members are offered the opportunity to participate in the play. Each production has interactions which encourage younger siblings and friends to come up on the stage and participate. During rehearsals these interactions are practiced and become the highlight of the performances.

In ”The Prince and the 3 Tasks”, the giant who lives at Thunder Mountain has a pet hamster named Scampers who does the hamster dance and pulls those in the audience up on stage to do the dance too.
In “Sleeping Beauty”, audience members are outfitted in fairy gear and become the fairies that give Sleeping Beauty blessings at her Christening.
In “Cinderella”, all are invited to come up on stage for the ball and “Chicken Dance” with Cinderella and the Prince.
In “How to Pick a Princess”, Prince Charming must pick a princess to marry. He first chooses Little Red Riding Hood who turns him down because, “You don’t even care what my dreams are. I am going to go off and become a fashion designer of red riding hoods.” Two other princesses (stage actors) reject him. He doesn’t care who he marries as long as it is a princess. The Prince then goes to the three princesses remaining, girls from the audience. The girls usually also say no to the prince.


 “It was great to see the kids’ excitement. My family and I truly enjoyed the play and the audience involvement” – Dr. Alan Gusching DDS., Orthodontist


“RumpleStiltskin was a good way to spend the afternoon. I loved dancing with the other fairies.”-Joy Wills, employee at Susie’s Big Dipper (Age 17)


“My daughter (age 10) really enjoyed being asked onto stage as a fairy, with the wings, tiara, wand and all.”-Kathy Alexander, parent


Sound equipment is not used to make the actors audible. The young people learn projection in the same way that the Shakespearean Theater did, using the lower diaphragm to push out air. The scripts are abridged, not simplified, using the original stories or elements from the historical original story.

In one of the original versions of “Cinderella” the slippers were made of fur not glass. In a latter French version do the slippers become made of glass. In the Children’s Theater version of “Cinderella” our slippers become bunny slippers.
In “A Christmas Carol” children performed the play using the difficult vocabulary of the Charles Dickens novel. They learned why it “sounded funny” and why Scrooge who is such a mean, miserly man, became that way through character development and interaction with other people. The children come to realize that the old stories have value and are just as relevant today as they were in times past. They come to love learning through the process of re-creating small pieces of history that are hidden in stories.


“Last year I watched 20 children stand up and lisp all of those difficult lines from Dickens’ Christmas Carol. I had expected a children’s version of an adult play, but here were 8 to 12 year olds performing as adults. Their pride in their performance was obvious, even though there were bumbles, and goofs, and forgotten lines. They were actors, and they were almost as delighted as their parents and siblings in the audience…”

-Cathy Essinger, Associate Professor of English, Edison Community College

 B.A., Bowling Green State University; M.A., Wright State University


Actors such as Mike Gusching (14), Jamie Gusching (12), Matt Gusching (8), and Krysten Schieltz (16) have gone on to be in the adult productions of Shakespeare at Edison Community College. Proving themselves in the Children’s Theater arena gave them the confidence and the skills they needed to express their talent.



Jamie Gusching – Jamie debuted in “RumpleStiltskin” in 2000, continued in the summer and fall cast of “Reviving Cinderella”, and was a storm maiden in “Hansel and Gretal”. She went on to perform in Edison Community College’s production of the William Shakespeare’s “MacBeth” as one of the children of McDuff. Her most recent accomplishment was playing the “Wicked Witch of the West” in this season’s Piqua Catholic Junior High School’s production of the “Wizard of Oz”.


Brian Swinehart – took Acting I at Edison and performed the part of the prince in “How to Pick a Princess”. Brian has gone on to Los Angeles and has appeared in several television shows and movies.


Krysten Sheiltz – took Acting I at Edison while still in high school. She performed in “How to Pick a Princess” and “Reviving Cinderella”. Krysten is currently attending Hofstra University in New York, majoring in accounting and minoring in acting.


Sadie Bowman – took Acting I at Edison. She performed in “How to Pick a Princess”. Sadie obtained a four-year degree in Theater at the University of Minnesota and recently  directed a production of “Lysistrata” in Minneapolis.


Jennifer Hill – took Acting I at Edison, performing in “Hansel and Gretal”. She is currently a radio personality on Bowling Green University’s Radio Station.


Jayson Grigsby – received an Associates degree at Edison. Jayson became a puppeteer in “RumpleStiltskin”. Jayson recently completed an internship at Shakepeare & Co., Lenox, MA.


The Issue of Abuse

“When I took the Child Abuse Class offered by Miami County I found out that my hometown of Piqua, Ohio has the highest rate in reported abuse cases in it’s county.

This area is a low-income area with few preventative measures in place and health care professionals were frustrated with having to fix things after the fact. I started researching play therapy and incorporating elements into my theater productions and puppet shows. These elements are subtle, with degrees of separation for the actual act of abuse. Children look at the story as entertaining, but a child in an abuse situation identifies with the story and internalizes it. Through viewing these situations children can gain coping mechanisms and develop solutions. Each play is reviewed by licensed child workers and educators.” – Matthew Williams


Never-Neverland Productions has helped The Shelby County Coalition Against Domestic Violence for the last three years. We assisted in purchasing puppets, advising, purchasing their puppet tent and in the writing of two scripts; “A Very Berry Mess” and “Horrible Hank”. The Upper Valley Joint Vocational School students, 15-17 years old, were trained by Matthew Williams in a basic puppetry workshop and helped in directing the shows. No fee collected for these services.


“The Council wanted a forum to address issues of domestic violence for children. With the help of Matthew Williams and his research on theatrical therapy they started the puppet show. The Piqua JVS Early Childhood Development Program was gracious enough to puppeteer the shows.” – The Shelby County Coalition Against Domestic Violence


In “A Very Berry Mess” the issue is dealt with gently. The hero of the play is Herbie. Herbie has to go into the forest and pick strawberries. While he is picking strawberries he is captured by a bear who wants Herbie to scratch his back and scares him into doing it. The Bear threatens Herbie that if he tells, something bad will happen to him. Herbie finds a friend in Fraganard the Dragon. Fraganard helps Herbie scare off the bear and tell Herbie’s mother of the situation. Children learn disclosure.

The issue is addressed and done comically. Children in a similar situation feel empathy with the character. A child who doesn’t have anything wrong just enjoys a fun puppet show.


Workshops at Local Arts Centers

Workshops are offered for children ages five to twelve. These workshops are based around a mini play or skit that the children act in. The skits are based on an original text. It is not made politically correct or overly moralistic, but teaches the historical context behind the story. Some recent versions of “Jack and the Beanstalk” try to justify the actions of Jack by changing the story so that the Giant stole from Jack’s father. We left the story as is and Jack steals the possessions of a mean Giant.


‘Workshops focus on making puppets and masks and learning how to use them in a show. It is just as important to learn how to use the creation as it is to make it.”

Matthew Williams


“New to Hayner’s summer class schedule was a series of art and theater classes taught by Matthew Williams. These classes proved to be very popular with students and parents alike. The bonus of his class structure is that family and friends get to participate by attending the weekend performances. Matt has a wonderful way of introducing his love of theater to children of all ages…” – Troy-Hayner Cultural Center in advertising home school classes.


Future Plans

This year we are investigating buying an old movie theater in Piqua, Ohio and converting it into a children’s arts and theater center. With this center we will offer a Kinder Music Program, Never-Neverland Production workshops, and independent dance and theater workshops and larger productions. It will be open to anyone who wants to produce a show, encouraging original musicals and productions by children for children.



Story Notes:

Cattle Ranching:
There was a cattle rancher who was out in his field observing his sons round up the cattle when his neighbor approached him. His neighbor complained "Why don't you hire professional hands to help you with your cattle. Your Children are doing it all wrong and they may damage the value of the cattle."
The cattle rancher replied "True, True. But I'm not raising cattle. I'm raising children."                             

Schubert, the famous composer suffered from manic depression (Bipolar Disorder) His life came crashing down at age 30, He could not stabilize himself until he began composing. His work saved him. He found that in the creative arts he could cure his own mental illness. - Classical Music Station on Radio

Trapped Whales:
There was trapped a family of whales in Alaska. They tried everything to get the whales to take the one course out to save their lives and they failed. They tried using recording of whale calls and nothing. Until one enlightened person recommended using music. They tried different types of music. They tried easy listening. They tried hard rock. They tried there own personal music. But nothing worked. Until someone joked "Why don't we try Braham's Water Music?" They tried it and the whale responded to it. They followed it and were saved.  
-Story told by: Michael Ballam, Brigham Young University, Music Department.

Schinler's List:
Recently, There was a janitor, who worked in Switzerland a Swiss Bank, came across some bank records that were being shredded. They were the records of Jews survived and those who were killed in Nazi Germany. They had denied any knowledge of these accounts. The Janitor having seen Schinler's list was moved to steal these records and turn them over to authorities. This caused a great scandal in the Swiss banking community which lead up to an investigation, arrest, a public embarrassment of the Swiss Banks, and the turning over of Millions of dollars to Holocaust survivors and their families. The impact of one story, acted out and filmed.

If you have a great story that pertains send it to me and I will add it.

"There is no way to fast forward and know how the kids will look back at this, but I have seen the joy in their eyes and have heard it in their voices and I have watched them take a bow and come up taller." 
- Willie Reale, The 52nd Street Project, New York City

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