“I can’t help but want to create something,” says Scott Frazier-Maskiell, founder and artistic director of Pegasus Playhouse. “I’m addicted to it.”
Pegasus Playhouse, a nonprofit theater company dedicated to creating shows with and for young people in the Eugene-Springfield area, has a new location in downtown Springfield. The site used to be part of the Springfield Academy of Arts and Academics (aka A3), and now has a colorful mural on the outside. There’s a small lobby as one walks in, that opens up into a large, cavernous space with room to seat 118 people in the audience. Behind the simple black stage and velvet curtains lies the lived-in green room, complete with costumes left over from a recent performance.
Pegasus was founded four years ago by Frazier-Maskiell, who came up with the idea to start writing his own youth musicals during his time as a theater teacher. “I didn’t love the content that was available for younger people back then,” he says, “so I decided to write.”
Frazier-Maskiell says he’s always been a folk singer-songwriter, so in that sense writing musicals seemed like a natural progression. “Once you start writing songs, the next one is easier,” he says. “Not that they’re perfect, but that you’re brazen and unapologetic.”
The artistic director explains that the original musicals are what makes Pegasus different from other theater companies. But Frazier-Maskiell still holds a deep appreciation for traditional musicals. “Now that we have our own theater, we’re going to have to do a lot more of the classics,” he says. “Just because they’re fantastic and they should be done.”
However, Frazier-Maskiell remains dissatisfied with current youth theater offerings. “I feel like the junior musical stuff that is out there right now, although terrific, is a lot of the Disney stuff — which I adore,” he says. “But I don’t think that’s all that should be offered.”
Instead, Pegasus Playhouse is proud to expand the possibilities of youth theater, Frazier-Maskiell says. “The first show we did was a show called Too Many Princesses,” he says. “It was a completely new musical about a land where every girl was born a princess but then wants to bust out of that mold.” The artistic director then teases an original musical about fairies that will take place this year. “A young girl opens up a book and it’s a family history, but it hasn’t been opened in forever and fairies come out,” he says. “And not cute Disney fairies, but fairies who cast curses.”
Having written many adaptations, Frazier-Maskiell enjoys drawing inspiration from pre-existing source material. “I’m orchestrating Winnie right now,” he says. The new version of Winnie the Pooh premieres Jan. 21.
“We are doing a youth production of Snow White, a version that takes place in jazz-era New York in the 1930s,” Frazier-Maskiell says. He strives to play homage to classic musicals, while at times subverting them. “For example, the Snow White show we’re doing has queer themes in it,” Frazier-Maskiell says. “Snow White happens to fall for a songwriter of the same sex.” But he is aware that he faces a degree of scrutiny with this fresh adaptation. “There are probably going to be some discussions on how that is portrayed, and I will listen and we’ll figure it out,” he says.
Pegasus Playhouse has faced its challenges. “We were one of the few companies that kept going during the pandemic,” Frazier-Maskiell says. “We did Zoom theater. Four different age groups did a Halloween show where I would send costumes to their house.”
Up until recently Pegasus was a “floating theater company,” meaning the young actors didn’t have a physical theater, but instead performed and practiced at other local theaters.
The artistic director is excited for this new chapter and the ability to put on more shows than ever before. The care that went into the new location is evident, from the seats, bought secondhand from the Very Little Theatre, to the charming green room complete with costumes left over from a recent performance.
Pegasus Playhouse, though a creative outlet for Frazier-Maskiell, serves first and foremost as a community for young actors. “To be able to be an artist around other people your age, to have a safe space to be yourself and even play,” he says. “It’s immeasurable what that does to your life.”
Winnie the Pooh Children’s Show runs Jan. 21 through Feb. 11 at Pegasus Playhouse, 402 Main Street, Springfield. Tickets and more info at PegasusPlayhouse.com.