In 1970 Robert Kuhne started a little theater group to meet the needs of talented students within the La Mesa/Spring Valley School District. It began as after school program at Casa De Oro Elementary School under Mr. Kuhne's direction. It was later moved to Lemon Avenue Elementary School when Mr. Kuhne was transferred. For some time, the cast was selected from students who attended Lemon Ave Elementary only, but as the annual production's popularity grew, talented students from other schools began to show an interest. In 1981, auditions for Peter Pan Jr. Theater were opened to students throughout the district. Now auditions and rehearsals take place at school facilities after school and on weekends, while the production itself airs at the Salvation Army’s Ray and Joan Kroc Community Theater.
Talented teachers who have a background in the Arts have always played an integral role in each production as designers, choreographers, vocal directors, orchestra directors and musicians. Often, high school and college students who were once Peter Pan Jr. Theater actors return to help backstage, as production team members, as the stage manager or in other ways.
One such student, Mark Arapostathis, went on to study theater in college. Dr. Arapostathis is a cofounder of La Mesa Arts Academy in the La Mesa/Spring Valley School District, and volunteers his time to run and Direct Peter Pan Jr. Theater. Dr. A has played many roles Peter Pan productions since the 4th grade. He has been involved with PPJT for the past 40 years.
The La Mesa/Spring Valley School District supports Peter Pan Jr. Theater by providing rehearsal facilities free of charge. Parents whose sons and daughters are involved in the production must raise all of the funding. Typically, the cost of a PPJT musical involving 70 to 80 students is approximately $50,000. It’s most unusual for a group of parents to provide this level of support for a Junior Theater. These are parents who truly believe in children and the Arts.
Peter Pan Jr. Theater has been recognized in the local press: