Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

FOR PETER PAN ON HER 70TH BIRTHDAY Announced At People's Light


People's Light presents For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday by two-time Pulitzer Prize Finalist Sarah Ruhl, featuring an all-star cast of Philadelphia favorites and directed by People's Light Executive Artistic Director Abigail Adams. Family is at the heart of Sarah Ruhl's imaginative and lyrical comedy-drama. Five middle-aged siblings crack jokes, argue politics, and mourn the death of their father over a bottle of Jameson. Ann, the eldest, reminisces about her star turn as Peter Pan at the local children's theatre fifty years ago, and leads her siblings on one final journey to Neverland, as they confront growing old and growing up. Tickets range from $30-$50. To purchase, call 610.644.3500 or visit People's Light is located at 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, PA 19355.

Sarah Ruhl has received a MacArthur Fellowship, the Samuel French Award for Sustained Excellence in American Theatre, and the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award for American playwright in mid-career, to name a few. Her work has been nominated for a Tony Award and two of her plays have been Pulitzer Prize finalists. Noted for experimenting with theatrical form, Ruhl constantly finds new ways to surprise her audiences and infuse her work with living poetry.

Framed by Ann's fond memories of playing Peter Pan in her youth, For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday is a one-act play comprised of three "Movements." The first introduces five siblings from a close-knit family in Iowa, all in their fifties and sixties, gathered around their dying father's hospital bed. In Movement Two, entitled "The Irish Wake," the brothers and sisters raise a glass of whiskey, or several, to their father's passing as they swap stories, jokes, and remembrances at their childhood breakfast table. And Movement Three takes us to "Neverland" - a dreamlike Peter Pan adventure in which the five siblings come to terms with life, death, and the loss of their father.

Ruhl wrote For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday as a birthday present for her mother, who had played the role of Peter Pan in 1955 at the Davenport Children's Theater. Ann is the fictional counterpart to Ruhl's mother, while Ann's siblings are composites of the playwright's real-life aunts and uncles. "I wondered if it was possible to write a play about one's family with love, a play they might want to come see," Ruhl says. "Part of what I tried to capture and preserve in the play ... was a certain musicality of speech when a family of five is talking."

Ruhl told Observer in 2017 that she thinks of the play as "a love letter to the theater ... but it is also about the deep bonds of family and about growing up ... we always have this idea that drama has to be about secrets and conflict. This is about the moment-to-moment experience of being with family."

For director Abigail Adams, "storytelling as an act of love is at the heart of For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday. Ruhl deftly intertwines the story of how this family experiences death with the original story of Peter Pan. And she does this while unabashedly reminding you that in the theatre, we tell stories for the same reason we tell them to the people we love-to offer a sense of belonging."

The cast of six - Marcia Saunders as Ann, Stephen Novelli as John, Peter DeLaurier as Jim, Leonard C. Haas as Michael, Mary Elizabeth Scallen as Wendy, and Graham Smith as George - are all longtime People's Light company members. Saunders, Novelli, DeLaurier, and Smith appeared together in last season's Morning's at Seven, also directed by Adams. That production received the Barrymore Awards for Outstanding Overall Production of a Play, Outstanding Direction of a Play, and Outstanding Ensemble in a Play, among others.

People's Light Executive Artistic Director Abigail Adams directs For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday. Frequent guest artist Tony Cisek designs the set. Three People's Light company members join the design team - Marla J. Jurglanis on costumes, Dennis Parichy serves as lighting designer, and Christopher Colucci designs sound. Our trip to Neverland is brought to life with Charles Conwell as Fight Choreographer and People's Light General Manager Erin Sheffield as Flight Choreographer. Resident Dramaturg Gina Pisasale dramaturgs the production, and company member Audrey M. Brown stage manages. Reg "Reggie" Adams and Bobby "Big Legs" Sheffield make their People's Light debuts as the family dog/Nana, trained by Laura Glaser Harrington.

Related Articles View More Philadelphia Stories

Buy at the Theatre Shop

T-Shirts, Mugs, Phone Cases & More

More Hot Stories For You