Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The need for Pan

There are some Peter Pan items in the news lately, even if you don't consider the comic Alan Moore recently wrote about Wendy's doing naughty things with Alice in Wonderland and Dorothy of Oz.

One thing that's happening is that the producers of Hairspray are developing a movie version of the Peter Pan musical for ABC. The musical's been shown live on TV before, but this'll be the first time it's been done as a film. No one's been cast for it yet.

In the To Read category, I've been wanting to check out the Pan prequel novel, Peter and the Starcatchers, written by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry. Now I want to even more because they've just released a second prequel novel, Peter and the Shadow Thieves, and are working on a third.

I've always loved Peter Pan because of the pirates, but I didn't truly appreciate it until I saw Finding Neverland. I wrote about it on Pardon My Wench right after I'd seen the film and, because I need to remember the lesson from time to time, here's what I had to say about it:

"Just recently, I wrote about how I need to find my voice and release the little boy in me who fell in love with making up stories. I've been thinking about that since then and have been practicing less self-censorship lately. And then I went and saw Finding Neverland.

"I went because I love Johnny Depp and because I love Peter Pan, but I got so much more out of it than I expected. I love Peter Pan because of the pirates, but I don't think I ever really got the point Barrie was trying to make with the story until tonight. It's a little kid who refuses to grow up yeah yeah sure sure 'inner child' blah blah blah. That changed tonight. After Finding Neverland, I got it.

"It's a powerful, powerful film and I found myself getting emotional during a couple of scenes, both of which depict the acting out of Barrie's play. Thinking about what made me emotional during them has had a profound impact on me. I don't know how profound yet. But it's important. It'll be life-changing if I let it. There may be some mild spoilers to follow, so watch your step.

"The first scene I misted up in depicts Opening Night of Peter Pan. Everyone is nervous about what the play's reception will be. Barrie's last play was a bomb and no one has a lot of confidence in him, especially with all the weird stuff he's throwing into this one. The main character's a fairy? There's a man playing a dog? And a crocodile with a clock inside? And you're going to ask London Society to come to this play in their tuxedos and evening gowns and respond... how exactly?

"Then Barrie gets an idea. He asks the play's producer to reserve 25 seats, scattered around the theater, but won't say who for. On Opening Night, after a suitably dramatic period of time, Barrie's guests arrive. They're all children from the orphanage. To the shock, sneers, and derision of London's upper crust, the children take their seats all over the auditorium and the play begins. At first, the fears of the naysayers come true. The guy in the dog suit comes on stage and begins to prepare slippers and make beds in the nursery. London is bored. Some people start frowning and whispering, some simply nod off. But then the laughter is heard. Not mocking laughter, but the laughter of delighted children at the antics of the dog. Gleeful laughter. Infectious laughter. It spreads throughout the audience and soon mutton-chopped gentleman and bejeweled ladies are giggling right alongside scruffy waifs. Barrie knew what he was doing. The children needed to be there to teach the grown ups how to appreciate what they were seeing. They helped turn 'theater' back into 'play.' And my eyes got watery watching it happen.

"I don't want to spoil the second scene for you, but the scene I just described was only warming up for what was about to come. It was another production of the play for a different audience and this time... This time I was full out, tears-streaming, lip-quivering weeping. I didn't understand it at first. It wasn't like the end of Old Yeller or The Champ or even the scene in Return of the King that always gets me when all of Gondor bows before the hobbits. It was just a play. A beautiful, beautiful presentation of the play, but it was still just a play. And then it hit me.

"I was crying for every person in the world who's so wrapped up in life that he's forgotten what it means to dream. I was heart-broken for every person in the world who's so serious about her responsibilities that she's lost the ability to use her imagination. I was profoundly sad for the part of myself that closes off emotionally and questions whether an action I'm doing or a phrase I'm writing will be perceived as appropriate or proper. The part of myself that wants to be grown up.

"And I got Peter Pan.

"I need Peter Pan.

"Not just in my writing, but in my life. It's not about avoiding responsibility and making someone else take it all on so that I can live a carefree life. It's about taking the proper attitude towards responsibility and having fun with it. And dreaming. And making up stories.

"I don't know that I've found my voice. That's just going to come with more and more writing. But I've found the little boy. I see him on the face of my son and I feel him dancing in my heart and at last I'm ready to let him out.

"Thank you, J.M. Barrie."


West said...

I'll heed your spoiler warning, then try to scoop up FINDING NEVERLAND, some time soon.

Michael May said...

Cool. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

West said...

The pirate thing didn't do it for me like the eternal youth aspect that was 'blah blah blah,' to you. :)

Being a little boy forever was a fascinating concept (though I'm sure that, even then, I realized that there were a number of potential drawbacks). Any- and everyone having the potential to fly didn't hurt, either.

Also, Disney's Tinkerbell was cute. *bows head in shame*

Michael May said...

I'm right there next to you on the Shame Pew. Tink is Disney's hottest babe.


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