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Broken Fragments of Immortality: Why People Will Always Love Peter Pan

By Anna Richardson

From the Faculty Nominator:

Why Peter Pan? In order to situate Anna Richardson's approach to this question, let me explain why she was asking it. The Senior Project in Theatre is a course in which students collaborate in creating a theatrical production. In the first semester, project members work toward developing the production concept-the interpretation that this particular production will be making of the given play. In the second semester, the Senior Project students each are responsible both for an acting role in the show, and a job behind the scenes. (In case you are curious, for our production of J.M.Barrie's Peter Pan, Anna played the role of Wendy, and she also served as assistant director.) But that is getting ahead of my main point here. The research essay happened before casting or rehearsals, it was the first major assignment in the course, and it represented a few weeks' intensive focus on analyzing Barrie's play. The idea was to use practical theatrical problem solving as an entry into scholarly, creative, collaborative and personal inquiry that addressed theatrical nuts and bolts but also exceeded them. Anna's research certainly pulled together some nuts and bolts with which the show's production team was concerned; for instance, her investigation of the mother figure in the play not only resonated with recent scholarship (and added a distinctive spin to it) but also directly contributed to a pragmatic and important casting decision, as we had Mrs. Darling and Captain Hook played by the same performer. Beyond that, Anna's writing extended itself confidently to a broader audience and wider concerns. Drawing on astutely selected primary and secondary sources, she used scholarly investigation to offer non-specialist readers an original and accessible introduction to the play. Finally, what grabbed me in Anna's writing was that she really, truly was asking the question, Why do people love Peter Pan? And she didn't know the answer until she had finished. This willingness to ask is crucial for the artist, and it is hard to articulate. I admired Anna's essay as a heartfelt invitation to follow her on her own route of questioning.

From the author:

I wrote this paper for the senior Theater seminar, a two-semester long project where senior Theater majors choose, study and produce a show. We chose J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan, and I focused my research paper around the psychological foundations of the show, specifically the importance of fairy tales in children's development. I was, and continue to be, struck by the general feeling that Peter Pan is purely a happy, fantastical piece. It is not. After a year of studying the play, Barrie, the characters, and the history of all the above, I have grown to appreciate Peter Pan in a way I never would have otherwise. I also feel that I know Peter more intimately than most, and I hope to share my insight with you via this paper, which is, I must stress, only a tiny chip into what could be a very extensive argument. I do wish to say that although my paper talks mainly about the dark sides of Peter, I think he is a crucial figure and that I love the show for what it is, good and bad aspects aside.  

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