On Sunday, director Heather Capece sits next to the stage at the Katharine Cornell Theatre for the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School’s first dress rehearsal for their play, The Neverending Story. In front of her a small Singer sewing machine is in constant use.

“We have almost 50 cast members and I made over 70 costumes,” Ms. Capece says. “Right now I’m working on some last minute details for the turtle.”

Hudson Riordan stops by to check in. “Should I get the bubble pipe ready,” he asks.

Hudson is in the sixth grade and comprises the entirety of the backstage crew. “I do all the set changes, move the props, including the turtle,” he says.

He also does some of the lighting, in particular shining a flashlight on the disco ball and helping the main character, who spends most of the show in bed reading a book, get up and down the ladder to his bunk.

Mattie Wolverton and Luciano Baldwin. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Third grader Zora Morais checks in next. She plays a bully, a dancer and a dwarf. Her secret to playing a dwarf?

“My voice has to be really low and grumpy,” she says.

The Neverending story is about a young boy, Bastian, who finds a mysterious book and is transported into the magical world of Fantasia. The land is ruled by a benevolent child empress and includes a giant wise turtle, a lucky dragon, a werewolf, a purple buffalo. In other words, it’s a perfect play for a cast that includes kindergartners through eighth graders.

Ms. Capece directed her first charter school play back in 2000. That play, “something with sphinxes,” took place in the hallway of the school. From there, the productions moved to the Grange Hall, and then she took some time off when she had children of her own. A few years ago she returned to the school and the plays have taken place ever since at the Katharine Cornell Theatre.

This year’s production includes three shows, on Saturday, March 17 at 2 and 6 p.m. and Sunday, March 18 at 2 p.m.

Ms. Capece’s two daughters, Koko and Lucia, are part of the show. Often her husband Joe helps out too, building sets and lending a hand wherever he can, but this year he said he has been too busy butchering a cow.

To fill the void, Ms. Capece created student captains to help keep things run smoothly.

Pickle Eville as the Bookseller. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“Sports teams have them, why not the theatre,” she says.

Eighth grader Ella Oskan, who had the starring role in last year’s production of The Sword in the Stone, is head captain. She also plays a horse named Artax, bringing some younger members of the cast to tears during dress rehearsal with her moving death scene.

Ella says she is honored to be a captain.

“I get to yell at people, and run warmups, and yell at people,” she says with a laugh.

Evidently, this is a big change from when she first entered the theatre world back in the third grade.

“She was very shy but has grown into a leader,” Ms. Capece says. “Other kids see her and think, that could be me some day.”

The co-captain is seventh grader Matti Lyn Floyd who also has one of the lead roles, playing Atreyu, a young warrior who heads out on a quest. Her favorite moment in the play is when she “gets sneezed out of the turtle shell and rolls across the stage.”

Ella Oskan and Matti Lyn Floyd. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Matti Lyn’s mother Tina is an essential player in the production too. She is Ms. Capece’s “person I can’t do without.”

Bastian, the bookish boy who sets the tale in motion, is played by sixth grader Luciano Baldwin. It’s a meaty part, beginning with Bastian being bullied. Luciano describes the journey he takes with his character as “like moving emotions up a mountain.”

Sixth grader Grace Cara O’Brien Robinson confers with Ms. Capece about the lighting, which she is in charge of. “They needed someone to do the lights and I wanted to do it,” she says of her position. She also mentions that she plans to add to her name, putting O’Malley on the end when she turns 18, in honor of the Irish pirate and feminist of the 16th century, Grace O’Malley.

The dress rehearsal is a success in that all the children make it through the long day, costumes intact, lines mostly learned and the bonding that goes with creating live theatre building. There are still several rehearsals to go before opening day on Saturday, but for Ms. Capece the magic occurs long before the curtain goes up.

“I love the process,” Ms. Capece says. “Getting to this point with the kids, getting all the details done and making the world come alive for them.”