(Somehow, when I wrote the story for the paper, my fingers became convinced that Ginny O’Keefe, the high-flying title character in this production, was named Ginny O’Neill. My apologies to Ginny, her family, her friends and anyone else who knew better.)
To teach the Darling children to fly, Peter Pan tells them to think of a wonderful thought.
For Rye Neck High School director Pat Rinello, there’s one less-than-wonderful thought that has been staying with her as she readies “Peter Pan” for this weekend’s run.
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It’s a viral YouTube video of last year’s production of “Peter Pan” at Greenport High School on Long Island where the actress playing Pan flies into the scenery and knocks it over. Later, an actor hits one of the windows and a hinge breaks.
“Are you kidding me?” Rinello said. “Every time I go to sleep, I see that YouTube video. That’s all I can think of. We’ve been rehearsing and rehearsing the flying.”
Sophomore Ginny O’Keefe, 15, who plays the boy who’ll never grow up, hasn’t seen it.
“I’ve heard about it, but I haven’t looked at it,” she said. “I’m kind of avoiding it.”
What Rinello wants her cast to think about is not what can go wrong, but what can go right.
“We’ve talked about what they remember from when they were 6 years old,” Rinello said. “We want them to get back in touch with their childhood without being embarrassed.”
“I always wondered why Peter Pan was played by old ladies,” Rinello said with a laugh. “In the original story, Peter still has his baby teeth.”
O’Keefe, 15, has never played an island-hopping boy before.
“He’s a boy who loves torturing the adults,” she said. “He’s the boy you wouldn’t want your kids to hang out with.”
She said she’s grown into the character, making bolder choices. When rehearsals started in October, she was afraid to be a kid; those fears have gone away.
O’Keefe also doesn’t fear heights, which is a good thing considering she’s a Pan who will fly.
“I’m so excited about it,” she said with a broad smile, happily showing that to play Pan means to strike a pose:?hands on hips, feet spread apart, chin up.
The cast of 60 is split into three constituencies: Lost Boys, Pirates and Indians.
“Most of the pirates are juniors and seniors,” Rinello said. “Most of the Lost Boys and Indians are freshmen and sophomores, so you get that sense of the age struggle — Peter’s big conflict — because the enemy, the bad guys, are all older.”
Choreographer Deb Spahr doesn’t have the traditional musical-theater dances of last year’s “42nd Street.” This year, it’s more about staging battles among the different bands of actors, about organizing the mayhem.
There are 60 students in the cast and at least 30 more working backstage, including a large crew to handle two major set changes in the show’s two intermissions.
None of those set changes involves scenery falling over.
That’s a wonderful thought.
What: “Peter Pan”
Where: Rye Neck High School, 300 Hornidge Road, Mamaroneck
When: 7 p.m. March 4, 5; 1 p.m and 7 p.m. March 6
Tickets: $17.50; $10 students
Via e-mail only: email@example.com
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