I recently asked Rick Elice about how he came to write the script for the winner of five Tony Awards, Peter and the Starcatcher. He shares “I did not have a deep knowledge of Peter Pan as a kid, beyond an unfortunate (for my waistline) affinity for the peanut butter that bears his name. When Roger Rees and Alex Timbers invited me onto this project, I read Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s novel, of course, and then I went back and read JM Barrie’s original play and stories. The pleasures of those works, of writing Peter and the Starcatcher for the stage – and all the remarkable people involved with the play over the past six years – have made me a die-hard fan… of Peter, of Barrie, of Dave and Ridley, of Roger and Alex, and of the possibilities and joys of theater.
What I connect most with, what has the biggest impact for me, isn’t the character of Peter; it’s the powerful theme I’ve tried to build the story around, namely that life is better when we’re part of something bigger than ourselves. There are so many ways to feel marginalized these days, to be disenfranchised. And Peter Pan is, of course, the eternal outsider, with his nose pressed up to the window, looking inside at the family he will never have. Like him, many of us crave a seat at that table. So we all understand the yearning of the title characters – this feral orphan who becomes Peter, and this hyper-bright, isolated young woman who becomes the Starcatcher.
But I think the reason this play has become such a passion project for all of us who work on it is the fact that it is a celebration of all the things we love about theater. It’s so clever and inventive and hilarious and sweet, it’s hard not to fall in love with it, no matter your age. That’s a tribute to Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, and the boundless invention they brought to every aspect of the production. And it’s a salute to the cast, who are miraculous in achieving what Roger and Alex set out to do.
Finally, the 24-hour news cycle and the challenges of our lives in this world make it easy for us, as adults, to lose the capacity for wonder. A century ago, JM Barrie suggested that adults tend to lose our capacity for wonder; that’s why the adults in Peter Pan have no patience for Peter. These days, with the 24-hour news cycle and the daily challenges of our world, our capacity for wonder is even more diminished. I think imagination, like any other muscle, gets flabby unless it’s exercised. Theater is a gym for our hearts and minds. The more we go, the more wonder-full our lives will be. That’s the impact we hope the play will have on the audience.”
Peter and the Starcatcher
Through Mar. 16
Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Av., Mpls.