Kyle Vespestad first met Petey in the early 2000s.
It was a public participation skit about a school spelling contest at Mosley Street Melodrama, where the Wichita theater veteran created the character of the 5-year-old from Parsons, Kansas.
“Petey grew up in that skit during that show and then after that we just decided to bring him back for another skit and that continued,” Vespestad said. “I’ve been with Petey for a long time.”
The preschool in overalls, green John Deere t-shirt and undersized red cowboy hat had their own show, “Petey’s Big Adventure” at Mosley in 2019 and is coming back again with ” Petey’s Playhouse “, opening Friday.
It is no coincidence that “Big Adventure” and “Playhouse” were also the names of comic character Pee-Wee Herman’s projects. “Petey’s Playhouse” even has a character named Cowboy Cletus, not far from Cowboy Curtis’ character Pee-Wee.
“We’re not trying to do anything ‘pee-wee’,” said Vespestad, “we’re doing everything for Petey.”
In “Petey’s Playhouse,” Parsons Public Access Television sends the boy a letter indicating that he is interested in a TV show that features him. He auditions his friends for roles and tries to fend off a villain and his sidekick who threaten to hijack the show for themselves.
“There are a lot of fun moments with auditions and they’re trying to get rid of Petey and the director and make the show their own,” director Steve Hitchcock said.
The 45-year-old actor said he was amazed his 5-year-old alter ego had such stamina.
“He’s fun and he’s unpredictable. For some strange reason, the public really loves to see it, ”said Vespestad. “I love to play with him. I don’t know why I like to play with him, but I do.
The other cast members are Jaslyn Alexander, Scott Noah, Molly Tully, Sam Warner and Max Wilson.
Vespestad said he takes a lot of inspiration for the child-watching character, including his role as a director at the Wichita Children’s Theater and Dance Center.
“There are a lot of kids that I watch over the years that I get things from Petey’s that I use,” he said.
Among these are 5 year old manners like putting his hand in his pants and exclamations like “Watch how fast!” Which has become one of Petey’s slogans.
The role also allowed him to use his improvisational skills.
“Every show is a little different every time,” he said. “There is something new that happens with every show where he grows up with his manners and his phrases.”
Vespestad did not write the series, but had lengthy discussions with Carol Hughes, the author of “Playhouse”, including ideas for the plot.
The second half review, written by Hitchcock and Tully, is also television themed. “As Seen on TV” runs through a day of broadcast, from a wake-up call (“Good Morning Wichita”) to a children’s show (“Teddy Bear Street”), a daytime legal show (“Judge Moody”) and take off on “Jeopardy! Ending with a mix of classic TV theme songs.
Hitchcock said Mosley Street continues to adhere to the coronavirus protocol, continuing to avoid bringing members of the public on stage and limiting the time actors spend in the house.
“We are cautious, but slowly adding elements and seats,” he said.
When: Until September 4; the show starts with dinner at 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, brunch at 10.30 a.m. on Sunday
Or: Mosley Street Melodrama, 234 N. Mosley
Tickets: $ 36 to $ 32 ($ 28 to $ 24 for the show only) for Fridays and Saturdays, $ 38 to $ 34 ($ 28 to $ 24 for the show only) for Sundays, from 263-0222 or mosleystreet .com