Wendy Darling and her bothers. Peter Pan. The Lost Boys.
In Shakespeare Theatre Company’s (STC) new production of Peter Pan and Wendy, the characters are mostly children, but the actors who portray them are mostly adults.
The exception: Chauncey Chestnut, who plays the littlest Darling sibling, Michael Darling.
Chauncey, a 6th grader from Washington, D.C., may be young, but he’s been performing most of his life. The 12-year-old actor, dancer and model has appeared in Off-Broadway plays, TV commercials and mini-series, including Wu-Tang: An American Saga, which aired on Hulu this fall.
We wanted to learn more about STC’s rising star, so we reached out to Chauncey while Peter Pan and Wendy was still in previews.
When did you first become interested in acting?
I first became interested in acting when I was five years old and I was sitting on my couch watching this show called Jessie. My mom was in the kitchen cooking, and I told her that I am funnier than all of these kids on the show and that I wanted my own show.
So, later in the year, while we were watching a dance performance my oldest brother was in, I was dancing all up around the row and stuff. A lady sitting next to my mom asked her, “Have you ever thought about getting him into performing?” And she said “yes.” So, the lady gave my mom the card of a manager, and I started acting, dancing and modeling professionally, and I’ve been at it ever since.
How did you prepare for your role as Michael Darling?
I got into a childish mode. I narrowed all of my big speaking down to a minimum since Michael is eight years old. And I also watched a lot of British videos on YouTube so that I could perfect my British accent.
What is your favorite scene to perform in Peter Pan and Wendy?
My favorite scene to perform is the nursery scene because we get to fly around and play in the sky even though sometimes it does get tiring. It’s still really fun and that’s my favorite thing.
How are you juggling school and this show?
It’s very challenging, but I get it done because it has to be done. I don’t think of it like it’s something that’s hard. It’s just heavy on me, but I’m strong so I can carry the load.
What do you like to do for fun (that’s not performing!)?
I like to play football, basketball, and my PlayStation. I think playing football is the most fun out of all of those.
In what ways has your family been supportive of your acting career?
My oldest brother, Xavier Mack, is a professional dancer with Dallas Black Dance Theatre, and he’s been giving me tips on how to deal with the crowd or how to follow what the director tells me and how to do it with excellence. My mom is not my momager, but she takes me everywhere, and if I get frustrated, she’s there to help me rise above and keep going.
What’s next for you?
I want to get promoted to 7th grade, and I dream of one day being in a film with Michael B. Jordan.
Peter Pan and Wendy is playing at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sydney Harman Hall (610 F St. NW, Washington, DC) through January 12, 2020. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office (202-547-1122) or going online.
Already seen the play? Here are other local events you and your family may enjoy this weekend.
By PJ Feinstein