Shakespeare Theatre Company Has Announced Cast For PETER PAN AND WENDY
Shakespeare Theatre Company has announced the cast of Peter Pan and Wendy (previously announced as Peter Pan), a reimagining of J.M. BARRIE's classic work by "America's Most-Produced Playwright" (American Theatre) Lauren Gunderson (Ada and the Engine, Silent Sky). This world premiere will be onstage for the holidays at Sidney Harman Hall from December 3, 2019-January 12, 2020.
This new old adventure retains much of its classic charm. "Obviously, we're doing some flying, we're having swordfights, we're going to meet some fairies, and we're going to go above ground, underground, and there may even be a mermaid. We want to let the original and all its fantasy shine," promises Gunderson. "Because, why would I ever touch that? That stuff is great. That's why I love that story."
"At its core, Peter Pan is about imagination," says STC's Associate Artistic Director Alan Paul (Camelot, The Comedy of Errors), a Helen Hayes Award-winning director. "Rather than go small, we have decided to go big! There will be sumptuous sets, flying, a mischievous and magical Tinkerbell, an enormous crocodile, and even a real dog playing Nana." The fantastical Neverland is designed by Jason Sherwood, a recent Emmy Award winner (RENT-Live) with costumes by Loren Shaw, a two-time Drama Desk nominee. Sherwood and Shaw previously teamed up to create the immersive space and the vibrant costumes for STC's all-male production of The Taming of the Shrew directed by Ed Sylvanus Iskandar.
STC Affiliated Artist Derek Smith, a Helen Hayes (Twelfth Night, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2) and Tony Award nominee (The Green Bird), returns to Sidney Harman Hall to play both the menacing Captain Hook and the doting father Mr. Darling. Jenni Barber (Sunday in the Park with George, All My Sons) who has delighted audiences as Glinda in Wicked, will also play two roles, Mrs. Darling in Edwardian England while donning the wings of Tinkerbell in Neverland.
Several Helen Hayes-nominated favorites are returning to STC, including the comedic talents of Tom Story (The Comedy of Errors) as Hook's righthand Smee, with Gregory Wooddell (The Comedy of Errors) and Michael Glenn (The School for Lies) as Pirates.
At the center of Gunderson's adaptation, however, are three complex new portrayals of Peter Pan, Wendy Darling, and Tiger Lily, all played by STC newcomers, Justin Mark, SINCLAIR DANIEL, and ISABELLA STAR LABLANC, respectively. "As Lauren and I pulled up our sleeves and began to imagine this production, we realized it was really a story for today," Paul states about the changes to the main characters. "Lauren's version of the story reclaims it by focusing on the journeys of its female characters. In many ways, Lauren's version of the play is an exploration of how young men and women begin to shape their own identities."
"The great surprise of digging deep into the Peter Pan myth is how tragic Peter's story is. When we meet him, he is all youth and joy," says Paul. "But as we get to know him, we see his difficulty in connecting with others. Peter Pan left his nursery only to find the window shut when he tried to return, and his mother with another baby." Justin Mark (in a word, The Forgotten Women) will portray Peter Pan, who is searching for belonging after his own brush with abandonment.
When approached by STC to adapt the work, Gunderson was at first apprehensive. "But then I thought, this is a chance for me to address the sexism and racism of the original, and make this a play of feminism, anti-colonialism, and anti-racism, and bring together this wonderful cohort of young people to tell a story of how they triumph together."
"I write plays that give women voice and put their struggles, passions, power, and wit center stage," Gunderson shared with American Theatre about her second year topping the most produced playwrights list. Peter Pan and Wendy follows suit, placing Wendy Darling centerstage as a budding young scientist whose personal hero is Madame Curie. An equal to the adventurous boy who never grew up, SINCLAIR DANIEL (Madame Secretary) will play Wendy. A recent graduate of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts with a BFA in Acting, Daniel is very excited to be returning to her hometown of D.C. to make her STC debut.
Crucial for Gunderson was to address the problematic portrayal of Indigenous Americans in J.M. Barrie's original and many subsequent adaptations. Tiger Lily has been written with sensitivity and a sense of history, as an activist, a smart and capable girl who defends her home and becomes an inspiration for Wendy. "We need to give a real voice to Tiger Lily, and come to her character as an Indigenous American with every manner of respect and empowerment that we can," explains Gunderson. ISABELLA STAR LABLANC (Jungle Theater: The Wolves, Little Women), a Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota actress, writer, storyteller, and activist working for better, more nuanced representations of Indigenous Americans on film and television, is taking on this reinvigorated depiction of Tiger Lily.
The cast will be rounded out with CHAUNCEY CHESTNUT (Wu-Tang: An American Saga) as Michael Darling and Christopher Flaim (Mary Poppins) as John Darling, with the Lost Boys played by FRANCISCO GONZÁLEZ (The Fantasticks) as Tootles, JORIAH KWAME (25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) as Slightly, RONEN LEWIS (Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies) as Curly, Tendo Nsubuga (A Misanthrope) and DARREN ALFORD (Is This the Wiz) as the Twins, Calvin McCullough (Miss You Like Hell) as a Pirate, and an ensemble including Oliver Archibald (The Lehman Trilogy), MEGAN HUYNH (Hamlet FFA), and JOSEPH RESPICIO (Zerospace).
"As a father of twin daughters, I want to produce plays that children will love and that families can see together," adds Artistic Director Simon Godwin. "The world premiere of Peter Pan and Wendy is the start of a new family programming initiative at Shakespeare Theatre Company, where we produce a play for families during the holidays. This initiative is inspired by the theatres in London where I served as Associate Director, seeing the joy that audiences experienced with modern classics such as War Horse (National Theatre) and Matilda (Royal Shakespeare Company)." Youth tickets (for children ages 5-14) are specially priced at $35.
Both Paul and Gunderson are hoping for a multi-generational audience. "It is very important to me that this play appeal as much to adults as to young audiences," Paul explains. "Adult audiences will respond deeply to the play's reflection on youth, time and mortality, while audiences young and old will find delight in the play's magic."