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A Story, a Stage, a Starring Role

Richard Paige — Sometimes, it’s just meant to be, and so it was with the upcoming production of Peter and the Starcatcher.

Wabash College is the first collegiate theater company in Indiana to produce the show on campus. The rights for the play that won five Tony Awards came open this year, and Assistant Professor of Theater Jessie Mills acted fast.

“I’ve had my eye on it for a while so we scooped it up when we had the chance,” she said. “Needless to say, I thought it would be a lot of fun for our students and a big change of pace.”

Rory Willats '17 during a recent dress rehearsal.

Rory Willats ’17 during a recent dress rehearsal.

As it turns out, Mills also had someone in mind to play the boy who never grew up, one best suited to handle the ragged and chaotic style that has become this musical play’s calling card.

Rory Willats ’17 is just that guy. He is no stranger to the Wabash stage, having occupied supporting roles in more than a handful of Wabash productions, but Peter and the Starcatcher will be his first leading role.

“I really think this is a role perfectly suited to me,” Willats said, “which is not to say that this process is a walk in the park by any means. Because it’s a high-energy, physical show and because there are parts of the boy I can see in myself, it isn’t at all easy for me. It’s also the first time in my career that I’m able to wrestle with a role in a show like this.”

The curtain rises on Peter and the Starcatcher on Oct. 5, and Mills is confident that Rory will inject something new into the prequel of Peter Pan, a story which nearly everyone is familiar.

“He is perfect in the role of Peter – a character who is as boyish and optimistic as he is frightened and vulnerable,” said Mills. “Rory has done a wonderful job pulling out the depth of complexities in Peter. I’m excited for audiences to see his performance.”


A Great Little Gem

Richard Paige — Even historical footnotes are memorable.

Late in the fourth quarter of Wabash’s 59-7 win over Allegheny on Sept. 17, a 5-foot-9 sophomore running back trotted onto the field for his first collegiate game action. His first carry netted a one-yard gain.

This particular back, Austin Hoover, was a good high school player, rushing for better than 2,600 yards as a senior at Sheridan (IN) High School. He’s been a hard worker at Wabash who shows up every day hoping to make himself and his teammates a little better.

Austin Hoover '19.

Austin Hoover ’19.

“I just set my mind to help out whoever is playing,” Hoover said. “If I’m on scout team that week, I’m going to do my best to make sure they get the best looks. If I get some reps on offense, I’m going to make those count. I’m making sure everything in practice counts in one way or another to help during the game.”

Three carries later, Hoover took the ball at the Wabash 32 yard-line and burst into the clear for a 47-yard gain, helping the Little Giants to a big piece of history. His scamper was the one that broke the single-game rushing record, originally set in 1975. Wabash ended the day with a whopping 513 yards on the ground.

“There was no better guy to set the school record than Austin Hoover,” said Wabash head coach Don Morel.

So what’s it feel like break off a big run where there is nothing in front of you but turf and the end zone?

Six of the guys pictured here helped Wabash rush for 513 yards on Sept. 17. Pictured above are (l to r): Bobby Blum '19; Tyler Downing '18; Isaac Avant '20; Shamir Johnson '17; Assistant Coach/RBs Darold Hughes; Matt Penola '19; Cam Morgan '20; Austin Hoover '19; and Lamore Boudoin '20.

Six of the guys pictured here helped Wabash rush for 513 yards on Sept. 17. Pictured above are (l to r): Bobby Blum ’19; Tyler Downing ’18; Isaac Avant ’20; Shamir Johnson ’17; Assistant Coach/RBs Darold Hughes; Matt Penola ’19; Cam Morgan ’20; Austin Hoover ’19; and Lamore Boudoin ’20.

“It’s a good feeling to know that you are getting open, but there is anxiety there as well that there could be someone coming up on you,” said Hoover, who finished the game with 57 yards rushing on four carries. “My thought process was ‘I am going to score in this play. I’m going for it.’”

While he was tripped up shy of the goal line, Hoover realized his carry was the record breaker just like everyone else: when it was announced to the stadium.

“When they announced it over the P.A., I kind of put two and two together that my run put it over,” he laughed. “It’s a good feeling to know that I was a part of the record breaking. Obviously, I wouldn’t be a part of it if it wasn’t for the other five backs who contributed.”

Coach Morel was all smiles while reviewing film two days later.

“Those guys down the depth chart, they practice hard and they really play hard when they get a chance,” said Morel. “A story like Hoover’s, it’s a great little gem.”