Actors playing Peter and Wendy give us their takes on the new play
No Rules Theatre Company is getting ready to open the world premiere of Peter Pan: the Boy Who Hated Mothers with John Evans Reese as Peter and Megan Graves as Wendy Darling. John answered a few questions for No Rules – which we repost here with permission – and Megan was kind enough to give us a few minutes on her day off to help us see the play from Wendy’s point of view.
What’s most exciting about playing Peter Pan?
John: The most exciting part of playing Peter Pan for me is PLAYING PETER PAN!!! What boy doesn’t want to be Peter Pan? He does every cool thing in the deck. He flies. He’s the best sword fighter in two realms. AND, he will NEVER GROW UP! Also, Peter Pan has always been a huge part of my life. To be playing a part that I’ve dreamed about since I was a child is a huge gift. I am incredibly grateful every day. I think the most challenging aspect about playing an iconic character like Peter Pan is that he already lives in most people’s subconscious. People know the story – how are we going to shake the ideas in their heads and make it fresh? That is our biggest challenge. I think with [adaptor and director] Michael Lluberes’ guidance and vision, we’ll give Cathy Rigby a run for her money.
What’s most exciting about playing Wendy?
Megan: I grew up with the image of the Disney version (which she admits never appealed to her very much.) Most exciting is finding unexpected qualities in her…going into the darkness and discovering Wendy’s emotional heft is a lot of fun. The play has done a great job of giving her layers.
How is this Peter Pan different than the version we’re all use to?
John: Well, to start this is Peter Pan: the Boy Who HATED Mothers. From the first scene of the play, you’ll realize you’re in for a treat. This is not your grandmother’s Peter Pan. Our Neverland is impulsive, aggressive, emotional, manic, quirky, hilarious, and seductive. Our Peter is a wild boy raised by fairies. He’s got a lot of street smarts. Our Peter has a deep scar that he doesn’t want to show to any one. His mother locked the window after his first journey to the Neverland and replaced him with another little boy. He’s never recovered from this and never will.
Megan: Wendy has always really wanted to grow up. She imagined it like a beautiful fairy tale. But something tragic happens at the the start of the play and all of a sudden her home has become a scary place. It was once loving and nurturing, now it’s fallen apart and she’s left to her own devices. She finds herself mothering her parents and becoming responsible for caring for siblings. The home where she was once safe is now the place she wants to escape from.
John said “Peter can get the girl with a snap of his fingers (though, he’s not quite sure he wants ‘er).” How is that for Wendy?
Wendy wants this savage boy who flies through her nursery window. No doubt about it. She’s surprised and intrigued. She really falls for him like a Prince Charming. She wants him to become a man for her. This Wendy is a strong, independent, plucky girl. And she sees Peter as someone who will always figure things out and always has the answer for everything.
What do you think is the scariest part about growing up?
John: Well, gosh. This is the biggest question I’m dealing with playing Peter! I think some of the scariest things, for me, John, about growing up are: losing your sense of wonder and imagination, realizing your mortality, feeling the weight of life’s responsibilities, and carrying the weight of lost loved ones. All of these things make us heavy, no longer allowing us the fly.
For a better answer, I turn to the man himself: Barrie wrote in his 1928 dedication to the Llewelyn Davies boys, “What was it that eventually made us give to the public in the thin form of a play that which had been woven for ourselves alone? Alas, I know what it was, I was losing my grip. One by one as you swung monkey-wise from branch to branch in the wood of make-believe you reached the tree of knowledge. Sometimes you swung back into the wood, as the unthinking may take a familiar road that no longer leads home; or you perched ostentatiously on its boughs to please me, pretending that you still belonged; soon you knew it was only as the vanished wood, for it vanishes if one needs to look for it.”
In Michael Lluberes’ Peter Pan: the Boy Who Hated Mothers, we’re jumping back into that wood of make-believe trying to catch as many branches as possible.
What is growing up like for Wendy?
Megan: She is carrying around many things in her head. I’m playing her as a 12 year old, and when you’re 12, I remember, you’re on the cusp of everything. Everything you think you know is challenged – you’re not quite an adult, not really a child. A lot of great things happen to you. But you have to say goodbye to a lot of things. Make terrible choices. Wendy is experiencing all of that. She’s trying to cling to home, but the cracks begin to show and she has to make a difficult decision.
How does Wendy feel about her mother?
Megan: Wendy idolizes her mother and adores her. Her mother was everything Wendy dreamed of being. But her mother changes when tragedy strikes, and Wendy is confused. She in that moment which all children experience, when they realize their parents are fallible.Going to Neverland gives her back her childhood, in a way, but increases her longing for her mother.
Are there characters in the show we don’t already know?
Megan: No new ones, but maybe some are seen in a different way. All of the lost boys, for example, play the pirates. Lisa Hodsoll plays two roles. She is terrifying as Captain Hook and heartwarming and heart breaking as the mother. We’ve added some songs, but it’s not a musical. It’s really a play with music.
This looks like a pretty dark and dangerous play. Are there light moments in it?
Megan: Peter is really the glimmer of hope in the play. His sense of play and childhood really explodes. Remember, in Neverland everything is possible. Rehearsing is like a play date every day.
John: Every day is a new game. Everything is a new discovery. It’s a dark wood, but we’re hungry explorers ready to play. Our Peter Pan is every game of make-believe you played as a child from sword fighting with sticks to making forts with pillows and sheets during thunderstorms. It’s simply imagination and pretend.
Recommended for ages 10 and up.
The show then moves to Hanesbrands Theatre, 209 N. Sprince St, Winston-Sales, NC where it plays March 20 – April 7, 2012.
Details and tickets
Here’s a look at rehearsals for Peter Pan with Michael Lluberes narrating.