ABOUT THE PLAY
Peter Pan is the high-flying Tony Award-winning musical that has been performed around the world for over 60 years. It’s based on the classic tale by J.M. Barrie. Peter Pan first appeared as a character in the novel, The Little White Bird, in 1902. Barrie transformed that chapter into an inventive new work for the stage in 1904 and Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up was born. It was an instant hit. So much so that the publishers reprinted excerpts from the novel with exquisite illustrations by Arthur Rackham as Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906). Barrie expanded the work even further by a novelization of his play initially entitled Peter and Wendy (1911). However, it wasn’t a fully realized musical until 1954 when Edwin Lester acquired the American rights and director/choreographer Jerome Robbins headed the team with lyricist Betty Comden and Adolph Green as well as composer Jule Styne as they crafted a vehicle for star Mary Martin. In addition to the creation of such hits as “Never Never Land” and “I Won’t Grow Up,” this adaptation featured a re-crafted ending based on Barrie’s “An Afterthought.” This new finale celebrated Peter Pan’s return to Wendy after 20 years, just in time to enchant her daughter Jane and take her off to spring cleaning in Neverland. The 1954 Broadway production was followed by television broadcasts of the show in 1955, 1956, and 1960. It has also seen numerous revivals on Broadway. The 1979 revival featured Sandy Duncan in the title role while subsequent revivals have featured Cathy Rigby. Film versions include Disney’s animated feature (1953), Hook (1991), Return to Neverland (2002), Peter Pan (2003), and Pan (2015).
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
For director Mark Booher, Peter Pan will deliver a highly immersive and personal experience to the audience unlike anything else. Starting with the collaboration process early on with the designers, Booher praised their great capacity to analyze the material J.M. Barrie has provided then applying their own skill sets and imaginations. The meeting place between the two comes down to what can actually be accomplished theatrically within budget, and time and space constraints. The team has explored innovative ways to deliver the play with a new life and vitality. The director emphasized that this is not a production of a dusty museum piece.
“The designers are creating a delivery system so that the actors and the audience can have the most lively interchange possible. Our audience is going to be in contact with the play in a way that we don’t often get to because so much of the play is going to happen right out with the audience,” Booher said.
The goal is to deliver a story that contains everything that anyone could ever expect about an incredible production of Peter Pan, and, so much more. It will be an experience that you can’t get anywhere else.
Peter Pan comes with a number of big challenges. The first of which is, people are going to fly through the air. And, flying actors over the audience means the whole room becomes part of the theatrical space. “We immediately knew that the feeling of this, in terms of design, wanted to be an immersive experience and once the Darling children fly out the nursery window, the walls come down – figuratively – and Neverland is all around us.” Booher explained that Neverland is not just a place, but also a state of being and state of mind, further stretching the bounds of the Marian Theatre.
Booher said that beyond the legacy of this treasured story, he personally has renewed appreciation in finding the joy and love in youthful imagination.
“In coming to Peter Pan you feel this big responsibility because you know it’s so well-known and beloved, so you come to it with a little fear and certainly humility and respect. But the thing that’s been great about working on it is, it’s better than you remember, and it’s richer and more evocative, and there is more joy than you can remember. It has really helped me get back in touch with hope, and joy, and youth, and freedom, in a way that’s been unexpected. That’s been a real pleasure. There’s plenty of challenge in delivering something like this theatrically because it’s got all sorts of stuff that you have to do, but the joy underneath has been the great thing that will make it fly.”
One important goal has been to create an environment where children, young and old, can show up and be aroused by a sense of magic that may have gone dormant. Particularly for adults who may have lost touch with those magical elements of childhood, this is a chance to rekindle fledgling possibilities within an environment where that youthful belief is actually occurring right here in the moment.
The director lamented that many kids today don’t have a safe place of protected imagination where wonderment and possibility and fantastic Neverlands are possible. Even Barrie, in 1904, was concerned about the loss of childhood imagination saying that children know so much these days. “And what would he think about children and childhood today?” Booher questioned.
“That’s something I really hope this production will actually deliver for young people. Suggesting that there’s a place of your own making that you can be captivated by - imaginary worlds, and worlds of possibility that you could make if only you’re set free to dream and believe.”
Making Peter Pan unique comes down to the one thing that always makes a PCPA experience like none other. It is the personal relationship that the individual audience member has with the play. Booher reminds us that this is your theatre company and this production was hand crafted specifically for you. And the people of this company take that very personally. “From our heart and from our imagination, this gift is for you.”
That feeling stems from the deeper belief that stories have the capacity to change a mind and heart just by giving somebody an imaginary lens through which to view the world that then might shape the way they see things. Booher concluded, “We wield that potent power of storytelling with great respect, enthusiasm, and belief. And that’s part of the magic you can expect to witness here.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet (1860 – 1937) was a Scottish novelist and playwright best remembered as the creator of Peter Pan. An older brother died when Barrie was 6 years old. The tragedy had a grievous effect on his mother, and Barrie tried to fill that void with entertaining stories wishing to recapture the happy years before his mother was stricken. He would study at the University of Edinburgh and had a brief stint as a reporter in Nottingham, England and then a budding career with the London Journals. He established his reputation as a gifted craftsman of “Scotch things” – stories and editorials on life in older times of Scotland. He went to work as a freelance writer in London in 1885 and his first successful books (1888 and 1889) were Auld Licht Idyls and A Window in Thurms. They were followed by his best-selling The Little Minister in 1891. That story was dramatized in 1897 which led Barrie to refocus his writing for the theatre. He had back-to-back success with Quality Street (1901) and The Admirable Crichton (1902). He also travelled in the best of literary circles, George Bernard Shaw, Robert Louis Stevenson, and George Meredith were among his friends. He even created his own cricket club (The Allahakbarries – named after what Barrie thought was Arabic for “heaven help us”). In 1891 he married Mary Ansel, a beautiful young actress; despite the initial attraction, the domestic dynamic was unsuccessful for both and Mary began an affair in 1908. Barrie divorced her in 1909 and he never remarried.
Barrie’s long-term friendship with the children of Arthur and Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (George, Jack, Michael, Peter, and Nico) were inspirations for his Peter Pan creation. Barrie acknowledged that “I made Peter by rubbing the five of you violently together, as savages with two sticks produce a flame. That is all he is, the spark I got from you.” In 1929, Barrie legally established Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital as the holder of the copyright to all things Peter Pan. By law, that copyright is still in force for all UK and Commonwealth productions. While Barrie’s works remained popular, his later dramatic works focus more on period social concerns.
Barrie died of pneumonia in 1937 and is buried next to his parents in Kirriemuir, Scotland. While through their lives, he amply supported the Llewelyn Davies boys, he left the bulk of his estate (save the Peter Pan rights) to his secretary Cynthia Asquity.