CATHY RIGBY AS PETER PAN
BEFORE THE FILM
The play is made up of a kind of children’s perception of things. The pirates are not real pirates, nor are the Indians. They are instead, children’s “images” or “stereotypes” of pirates and Indians – the stuff that children’s games – and maybe dreams – are made of. Remember Barrie’s statement that if you take the mask of an adult character in a children’s play you find a child underneath.
This is a more recent version and hence there is greater variation in the racial/ethnic composition of both the pirates, Indians and lost boys. This is something which changes over time. “Tiger Lily” is played by Anna May Wong in the Betty Bronson version Peter Pan. Here a Chinese American is playing an American Indian. Not until Carsen Gray plays Tiger Lily is there an American Indian (Iroquois and according to IMDB is said to speak the Iroquois language which is like speaking Romance) playing the part.
Color blind casting, problems of characters and appearances, acting, and economics.
In “color blind casting” the characters can be played by anyone, although this can lead to problems if someone who would clearly be dealt with differently if their ethnicity were different. It would be impossible to have a Black actress (who looked Black) playing Scarlett O’Hara. Gone With the Wind could not and would not be the same story. Similarly having an Asian actor play a historically non Asian character would likewise be close to impossible. Jackie Chan as Martin Luther King or Malcolm X won’t work.
Despite this, some actors have argued from color blind casting while others have held the unreasonableness of having actors who are not from a specific ethnic background play such characters - i.e. Roland Winters, Sydney Toler, Warner Oland or Peter Ustinov playing Charlie Chan.
Such arguments have been made by Asian actors, who argue against having non-Asians play Asians since they have to assume a role. Asian actors, they argue don’t have to assume the role, they already are that. In on sense this is what acting is about. Casting directors rarely if ever look for murderers to play murderers, or (God help us) vampires to play vampires! Warner Oland, while Swedish has ancestors who are Mongols so it is not clear how much “Asian” you need to be). Since Chinese actors have portrayed Japanese in films there seems precious little complaint that the Chinese have to “put on” being Japanese as much as a non-Asian would have to put on being Asian. We must also remember that characters like Charlie Chan (while actually based on a real life Chinese-American detective on the Honolulu P.D.) are written by non-Asians and are often artificially Chinese to begin with.
The economic problem is far more serious. That is, minority performers were often (and many are still) restricted to roles that are of the same ethnic status as the actors. This is especially true of Asian and American Indian actors. While we might find an all Hispanic version of Romeo and Juliet, or an all Black version of Hello, Dolly, we do not find an all Asian production of Twelve Angry Men or Cat on a Hot Tim Roof.
It is important to keep separate the question of who can play what role with the economic problems of being an actor from a minority background.
These preoccupations will become more interesting in the Jeremy Sumpter Peter Pan shown next week.
This is a real Play in front of audience
Same script and songs – sort of ---
How is script the same? How is it different?
Performers “feed” on audience reactions?
What can we begin to say about the text and subtext? What symbols are there?
AFTER THE FILM
A film of a staged play where the audience is visible gives a clearer feeling of a “play” being produced than one without an audience. In the Mary Martin version, the play is performed with no audience In the Cathy Rigby version there is an audience present. What does this audience do?
Changes from Mary Martin version
Far more acrobatic Peter. Flying more dramatic with many stunts.
Much more “floor” work after the attaching of the shadow.
Fewer songs – (no “Mysterious Lady” song allows reinstatement of Marooner’s rock scene
Play version (in front of audience) requires scenes in front of curtain while scenery is being changed. This sometime necessitates moving reprises around (e.g. “I Gotta Crow”) to allow the change from the pirate ship to the Darling nusery.
Who has a trajectory and what is it?
Does Peter change? How? Is the beginning of the play like the end?
Does Wendy change? When? How? Does she go from adventurous run-away to wanting to go back home to grown up? What causes her to want to return home in the play? In each of the 5 versions?
Does Hook change – other than from living to dead which is a sudden change in one sense rather than a trajectory? What is the purpose of the green cake?
What is the function of having Smee go the Darling nursery with the lost boys in the last act?
Aside from the trajectory in any given script, which character shows the greatest variation in the different performances? Is there greater variation between the Peters, the Wendys, the Hooks or other characters?
Shadow: like image? Mirror? Reflection? Soul?
What has Peter lost?
What kinds of parallel structures are there?
land vs. water
DOES THE PLAY WORK AT TWO LEVELS – ONE FOR ADULTS AND ONE FOR CHILDREN?