The Creation of Peter Pan
The character of Peter Pan was first mentioned in a 1902 book by Sir James M. Barrie (knighted in 1913) entitled The Little White Bird. In 1904, the character of Peter was perfected and became the lead character in the full-length play, Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. In 1906, the section of The Little White Bird that originated Peter Pan was published separately as a book called Peter Pan in Kensington Garden. Then in 1911, Barrie turned his popular play Peter Pan into a novel called Peter and Wendy.
James Barrie never had his own children, but spent a great deal of time playing with the children of his good friends, Sylvia and Arthur Llewelyn Davies. He loved to create skits for the children’s entertainment. It was while writing and acting out skits with the Davies children that Barrie developed the characters and plot he would use in the writing of the full-length play version of Peter Pan.
“The story of Peter Pan has always held a special fascination for children of all ages, and with good reason – it offers a swashbuckling adventure combined with some of man’s most secret desires, to fly and explore another world somewhere beyond the stars, and never to grow old.”
-Didier C. Deutsch, American theater historian
Barrie even acted out the part of the over-the-top comic villain Captain Hook to the delight of the boys and drew his inspiration from the boys’ parents. He modeled Mr. Darling after the young lawyer, Arthur Llewelyn Davies. Mrs. Darling was based on the refined, nurturing mother, Sylvia Davies.
After Sylvia and Arthur’s early deaths, Barrie adopted their five boys. Wendy, who was modeled after a young girl name Margaret Henley, had died at a very early age. The name Wendy originated from Margaret calling Barrie her "Friendy" which, when you add a lisp, comes out "Fwendy" – thus, we have Wendy.
The play also has strong roots in the reality of Barrie’s life. Like Peter Pan, Barrie was a boy who refused to grow up. He took such elements of life as his awkwardness with, yet dependence upon women, his love of children and his own longing for childhood, shaping these elements into one of the most-loved stories of all time.
Barrie came up with the last name Pan based on Greek mythology. Pan was the Greek god that symbolized natural forces. Pan was the ancient god of forest, flocks and shepherds. Peter’s enchanted Pan-side granted him the power to remain a child forever.
Despite the quality and originality of the piece, Barrie still had a hard time getting it produced. Unlike today, plays in 1904, usually did not have special effects like flying and major scene changes.
Finally, English producer Charles Frohman agreed to produce the play. He cast one of England’s most popular actresses, 37-year-old Nina Boucicault as Peter. Nina's brother, Dion Boucicault , directed the first production, giving the cast only a few pages of script at a time. He was a perfectionist as a director, often having cast and crew rehearse up to 15-18 hours at a time.
Even with its major technical requirements and unique plot and characters, Peter Pan was a great success. It was a big hit throughout England and then in the United States in 1905.
Peter Pan has been shown on television, was made into a famous 1953 full-length animated Walt Disney film, and been made into three other movies: “Peter Pan” in 1924, the Steven Spielberg version, “Hook” in 1992, and most recently, “Peter Pan” in 2003.
Why is Peter Pan still so popular all over the world? It might be because it speaks to the smallest child with its spectacle and fantasy, especially the thrill of flying. Older children can also relate to the characters that are their own ages and the great adventures that Peter and his friends have with Captain Hook and the pirates. Adults enjoy Peter Pan because it rekindles the magic of the first time they saw it when they were children, and, let’s not forget, the glorious songs and the universal theme of ones desire to never grow up.
In 1929, Barrie presented all rights to Peter Pan to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in London, which continues to receive income from all of the various productions mounted all over the world.
December 19-23, 2017
Tuesday, December 19 at 7pm
Wednesday, December 20 at 7pm
Thursday, December 21 at 1:30pm
Thursday, December 21 at 7pm
Friday, December 22 at 8pm
Saturday, December 23 at 2pm
Saturday, December 23 at 8pm
The winner of Broadway.com’s Audience Choice Award for Best Musical, this breathtaking smash “captures the kid-at-heart,” says TIME Magazine. Vogue cheers, “It’s a must-see you’ll remember for years to come!” Directed by visionary Tony®-winner Diane Paulus and based on the critically-acclaimed Academy Award® winning film, Finding Neverland tells the incredible story behind one of the world’s most beloved characters: Peter Pan.