HESPERIA — More than two dozen students are ready to create the fairy tale world of Neverland with a Hesperia High School graduate leading their charge.

The school’s drama department will present its version of the stage show “Peter Pan,” with showings beginning Thursday at Oak Hills High School. Guiding the students into theatrical battle is Shane Cottrell, an English teacher in his first year at HHS and a former drama student at the school.

Cottrell studied in the drama department under Paula Hunter, who now teaches visual and performing arts at Oak Hills. Cottrell said his alum status and many years spent learning from Hunter has allowed him to essentially use “the past” to influence the present.

Cottrell also works directly with Hunter as they’re district coworkers, a working relationship that brings a chuckle out of Cottrell.

“It’s kind of weird to be working with her as a peer now,” Cottrell told the Hesperia Star last week. “But it’s neat to see that I’ve been able to take a little of the past and bring it back to this department.”

That includes leading the department’s students in producing two shows a year. In the fall semester, they put on “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” and they’re rounding out the year with “Pan.”

Cottrell has seen the student participation grow since the first semester production, as the cast went from 18 students for "You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown" to about 30 for "Pan."

Rehearsals for "Pan" began in February for a few hours each day after school. Now, with the show just a couple of days away, the rehearsal schedule has intensified, with the crew spending nearly their whole weekend on the Oak Hills stage, not just reciting lines but continuing to learn the parts they’re playing and the roles they take in, making sure all goes as planned.

Cottrell says the anchor of the show is student Adam Mason’s portrayal of Captain Hook: “When he comes on stage, it really comes alive.”

Students Nick Murillo and Abraham Estrada were doublecast as the title character, while Juliana Alverez and Chantal Felix both play Tinker Bell. Cottrell said each performer brings their own spin and adds their own signature to the prominent roles.

The show is “a show within a show,” Cottrell said, centered around the “True Story of Peter Pan,” adapted by Scott Hunter. In it, the notorious Lost Boys Community Theater Players are putting on their own version of the Pan saga.

The show runs for about two hours, including an intermission, Cottrell said, and tickets can be purchased from any cast member for $7 presale or $8 at the door.

Showtimes are 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday and  2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Oak Hills High School is located at 7625 Cataba Road in Oak Hills. Visit www.scorpioncountry.com or call 760-244-9898 for more information.