“To live would be an awfully big adventure.”
As the year comes to a close, many students are readying themselves for the transition out of the Neverland of college. But one senior is focusing instead on somebody who refuses to grow up: Peter Pan. This weekend, Katie Goldman ’14 is directing “Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Would Not Grow Up” for her Honors Directing Thesis.
“I feel that Peter has this fear of failing and he thinks, ‘What if being an adult is boring or I’m bad at it?’ So his reaction is to stay a little boy forever. But as a senior, you can’t do that,” says Goldman.
Unlike the Disney version that most people are familiar with, Goldman’s version features the story’s inherent darkness. Goldman explains, “It’s not even darker in a sinister way; it’s mostly sad because Peter is a tragic character. You don’t get that at all from the animated version where he’s just a cool kid.”
“It’s a very ambitious play,” says Goldman. The show is also set in five very distinct locations. To solve this problem, Goldman has created each location out of a variety of objects. For example, the pirate ship is constructed by the cast out of a series of existing props on stage that are recycled throughout the play. These logistical problems have made directing “Peter Pan” both logistically and artistically complex.
The title role will be played by Madeline Charne ’14. Charne says the role of Peter has been more challenging than she anticipated. The gender reversal, however, has not been an issue. In the past year, Charne has played two male roles; she jokes that it has been “the year of men.”
“I realized that Peter’s character plays a lot in masculinity. He’s a little boy trying to be in charge, playing the role of a father, becoming his own version of a war hero, but this is a different performance of masculinity because he’s also just a little boy having fun,” says Charne.
One of her biggest challenges has been figuring out how to portray Peter as more than a caricature. He is both playful and authoritative, a dichotomy that requires careful articulation and nuance.
To get into a childlike mindset, Charne and the rest of the cast have been playing schoolyard games. Charne says she’s enjoyed these games, which allow her to get into character. “I love being able to throw myself wholeheartedly into the moment. Playing those games lets you do that by focusing on the purely physical and competitive nature of these games. You have to leave all your worries at the door because the role really requires that you can’t be stressed or worried and have to be completely immersed in what’s happening at the moment.”
For Charne, one of the most fun moments in the process has been learning how to yo-yo. This investment in physicality has been important to the show from the smallest to the grandest scales: both Charne and Goldman point to the intricate fight choreography as one of the show’s great successes.
Goldman says she hopes the audience will be able to experience some of the childhood whimsy the show is meant to impart and take away the large lesson that change is inevitable and that unlike Peter, we must all move on to new places.
“I want the audience to tap into the feeling of being a little kid again,” says Charne. “It’s about magic, make-believe and growing up.”