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General Information
We talk “happy thoughts” with Jeremy Bloom, author of “Peter/Wendy”

Peter/Wendy is a mashup of two J.M. Barrie classics–Peter and Wendy and The Little White Bird. Lyrical, atmospheric, and low-tech, this is Peter Pan stripped down to its emotional essence. We talk with playwright Jeremy Bloom about taking on a classic, characterization, and “happy thoughts.”

Why Peter Pan?

When I read the novel, Peter and Wendy, I knew I had to make a play of it. Written after Barrie’s original play, it was a gorgeous meditation on loss and growing. It’s internal. But it’s also just as fun and funny as the play. This adaptation is completely loyal to Barrie, but also free from the weight of the period. While the play is often done with elaborate but familiar sets and scene changes, this version is meant to be fleet, like Peter himself–it could be done in a garage or an attic or on the deck of a boat. I feel that by taking away the famous Captain Hook costume, by reinventing the way the characters fly, we’re able to see the characters’ humanity crystal clear.

Peter Pan is wildly famous, and whether they’ve read the books or seen the movie or not, almost every single soul who comes to see the play will have heard of him, and have some sort of image in their mind of who he is. When the audience has a touchstone this strong, the makers of the play are free to play with the expectations of the audience–we are instantly engaged in a conversation that’s been happening for a hundred years, joining in a chorus of the uncountable thousand trillions of Captain Hooks and Peters. Barrie introduces Peter as a character that he recorded (not invented) who has been played since the beginning of time. He seems to know that the characters are for all time and that they will be shared by many.

Your play is not only an adaptation of Peter and Wendy, but also of Barrie’s lesser-known The Little White Bird, which chronicles Peter Pan’s adventures in Kensington Gardens. What do you feel was the benefit of combining both stories?

The Little White Bird had to go in because it contains my favorite part–the stuff about birds. The narrator in The Little White Bird explains that babies were birds before they were human, and that the language babies speak is bird language, and that growing from an infant to a toddler and beyond is the process of forgetting how to fly, and forgetting how to speak with birds (there are bars on nursery windows to prevent newborns from flying out). How could you not, you know?

Peter/Wendy puts an emphasis on being low-tech. What draws you to that aesthetic?

The very first production of Barrie’s original play seemed doomed to be the Spiderman of its time–a very daring producer pouring in record-breaking amounts of money and record breaking amounts of time to use a new method of onstage flying and very elaborate sets. People were hurt, but when it all worked it was astonishing. I love it like the next person, but feel like spectacle takes away from the intense intimacy of the novels. We want to be right there with the actors. Rather than fly above us, I’d rather have them right there in the room flying with us.

Anyways, that’s how I do all my plays. Remember in middle school plays, how a scene would happen, then the curtain came down as all the kids on stage crew built something new? The whole joy of theater is that it can turn on a dime, that an actor can sway back and forth and she’s on a boat–she puts her arms out and she’s flying. It’s different than film, because you just have the one frame, but at its best that frame is the perfect vehicle for the imagination.

Especially with Peter Pan, the epic adventure–it’s gotta move.

You’re both a writer and director. How do these two perspectives influence your own work and approach to theater in general?

To me it’s one in the same. My passion for the theater really stems from the earliest of productions, in the playroom or on the playground where you’re with your friends and are the writers and directors of the whole thing. My favorite plays feel like playing on the playground.

Which character in Peter/Wendy do you most relate to?

The Darlings, the parents–though it’s often glossed over as fun fun fun, the big moment of Peter Pan is that moment when Wendy is coerced from her bedroom window four stories high into the night. It’s exciting in context, but I also like to see it for what it is–a terrifying, courageous moment of loss. Wendy gets to go out and have an adventure but the parents are left behind. It’s a beautiful metaphor for growing up. I don’t have children or anything, but I empathize with that feeling of the parents who wait, hoping she’ll come back.

“Happy thoughts” play an important role in this piece. What do you feel is the importance of communicating the concept of “happy thoughts” to an audience?

YES! Happy thoughts are the primordial soup that this play and this story rise out of. To think of a thought that is so happy it lifts you up off the ground, and you have to channel that happiness to stay soaring. In the original play, they try candy and hopscotch and flowers–but Christmas is the thought that lifts them. In the movie Hook it’s a memory of Pan’s father that helps him remember to fly. In updating the thoughts, I felt that they had to be personal to the actor, they had to be right for the moment, so they are improvised. The set design has always incorporated the happy thoughts of the audience and cast, which alter every night and collect like a motherboard of consciousness. In the world premiere production at the cell, a wonderful theater/music/art space on 23rd Street, happy thoughts were gathered from thousands of people through emails, facebook, and asking people on the street. They can be funny or provocative or moving, sometimes like little prayers–a lost loved one, a creamy dish of linguine. The act of gathering these thoughts and sending them up is the reason to do the play–it’s the winds that Wendy rides on and the secret to why any of us gather at all in theaters.

What are some of your “happy thoughts”?

I’ll do in the moment as they come–it’s best to just not think about it and say them, right? (but trying to avoid saying too many food items, because at certain times of day, it would be only food items). 3, 2, 1…

tubes
avocado
white water rafting
a baby laughing
a new bike
less back pain
all grandparents
CSA shares
road trips
really good coffee
coupons
sushi
world peace and understanding
Emily Dickinson
summer
the unicorn
photo books
screaming really loud (never done it)
Agnes
Allen Ginsberg
the Cherokee Nation
couch cushions
June 14, 1998
cranberries
acceptance and gratitude
college
Felicia seeing the fake tree
fireworks
bingo
the buttercup “game”
tacos y burritos y guacamole
soup dumplings!
rivers
watching tv
Maine
The Squire Tarbox
making people go under the bridge
weddings
bedding
good dreams
late sleeping
logs on the fire
wrap around porches
sunset
international compromises
finishing a paper
Mrs. Drugge
Ronda the Honda
the white cliffs of dover
parmiggiano reggiano
the “public” library
tee many martoonies

“come here ya little rascal”
the rocks

 …and so on…

Are you going to watch Peter Pan Live?

Of course–but I strongly feel Miley Cyrus should be playing Peter ; )

 






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