“Never Grow Up, Never Grow Up, Never Grow Up!”

By on 30 June, 2017 in Art, Fun, Sarah Thornton with 0 Comments

Childhood is the world of miracle and wonder: as if creation rose bathed in the light, out of the darkness, utterly new and fresh and astonishing. The end of childhood is when things cease to astonish us.” – Eugene Ionesco

One of the themes at the Playhouse this season is embracing the simple, honest joy of storytelling. Telling stories is so important to our development as children, as human beings, as societies. Through fable and fairytale, novel and song, we learn about where we came from, ask questions, use our imaginations, practice empathy, find common ground, and stretch our perception of our own realities. Children whose parents read them stories are proven to benefit in major aspects of their development: a higher aptitude for speech and vocabulary, logical thinking and problem-solving, concentration and discipline, as well as a capacity to learn more easily in general. On a more personal level, the practice of reading together encourages bonding and helps strengthen the gift of imagination for everyone involved.

In J.M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan, Peter first discovers the Darling family by passing by the window and hearing Mrs. Darling reading fairy tales to her children. He falls so in love with the magic of her stories that he spends many evenings listening at the window. He regales the Lost Boys back in Neverland, and they all determine that their band of orphans must find their own mother to tell them stories.

Sometimes as adults, we get so wrapped up in our grownup problems and our busy, important grownup lives that we forget how much fun it is to use our imaginations. I have an amazing nephew who reminds me constantly that there is wonder and discovery and magic in the world. A wind-chime rings outside and his face lights up with fascination. “Bell! Bell!” he cries eagerly, and we go enjoy the bell’s music together until something else catches his eye, and the adventures continue. Parents, I will remind you that taking time to play in imaginary worlds with your children benefits you just as much as them. YOU NEED THIS! You need to remember what it feels like to go on jungle expeditions in the backyard, to dig your way to China, to build castles out of blankets and pillows in the living room. One of my favorite playwrights, Tom Stoppard, wrote, “If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.” Perhaps the fountain of youth is, in fact, made out of popsicle sticks and glue and a little hint of fairy dust.

Our upcoming production of Peter Pan is inspired by the idea that families will see the play and go home to battle pirates together in their own nurseries. Our Children’s Acting Troupe is sharing the stage with adult actors to play pretend together in Neverland. They will swim with mermaids, fly with fairies, and climb the masts of pirate ships without ever leaving the confines of the Darling Nursery! Our hope is that we don’t need strings to make our kids fly because they believe they are flying. And if they believe, truly believe that everything in their world is real, it is my dearest wish that the grownups in the audience will shed the weighty cloak of the reality outside of our house long enough to remember when they first saw Peter fly and knew that they could fly too. “Just think of lovely, wonderful thoughts, and away you’ll go!”

Our intrepid cast

I’m reminded of the dinner scene in the movie Hook (in my opinion one of the greatest moments in a movie ever). Adult Peter Pan cannot see the bounteous feast on the table that the Lost Boys are devouring so joyfully. The empty bowls and platters bewilder him, and yet the children seem to know something he does not. And slowly, he remembers his old life, he reconnects with his childhood imagination, and he is able to step back into the world of Neverland with his whole heart. If you haven’t seen that movie, stop what you are doing right now and make that happen. Trust me.

Peter Pan has been told and retold in dozens of ways, and the story never ceases to lose its magic. There is so much power in the themes of believing, dreaming, and never growing up. Please join us in our world of make-believe, and try as hard as you can not to lose that sense of wonder once you walk back outside. Clap as hard as you can, and keep that little fairy light burning brightly!

Get your tickets for J.M. Barrie’s PETER PAN at the Cloverdale Playhouse, running July 20-July 30. Visit www.cloverdaleplayhouse.org or call the box office at (334) 262-1530 for more information.

Sarah Walker Thornton is the Artistic Director of the Cloverdale Playhouse, who walks like a New Yorker and waves like an Alabama girl. She is a product of a Montgomery arts education, with several years of life in NYC thrown in for extra flavor.


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