I Killed Peter Pan

The resurrected Mr. Pan on the right

I think the statute of limitations has run out. I can confess.

It’s not something I’m proud of and I don’t include it on my resume.

But I did it…or at least I thought so at the time.

For historical context; in 1970 Lexington Children’s Theatre performed their plays on the Guignol Stage at the University of Kentucky. That fall they were staging PETER PAN.

In 1970, I was a sophomore in the Theatre Department. That exalted status required me to take Stagecraft 101, a class that introduced theatre majors to the rigors of technical theatre. Participation in the class led to building flats and platforms, spackling sets, and being on the running crews for Guignol productions.

Peter Pan had to fly. That was my job.

It’s called a Foy System. It involves two ropes and pulleys attached to Peter onstage and an operator offstage. One rope moves Peter from stage right to stage left and the other moves him from downstage to upstage. Pulling the ropes lift Peter higher. Relaxing the ropes lowers him. Simple, n’est-ce pas?

Well, maybe for competent, coordinated people but we’re talkin’ ‘bout a long-haired hippie actor whose mindset and physical skills only coincided when flinging Frisbees (and then only occasionally).

The part of Peter Pan was being played by Geoff Moosnick; a sweet kid. Geoff’s mom, Marilyn, was a god to me. Marilyn was a Guignol veteran from the 50’s. She raised money and served on arts boards her whole adult life. She raised beautiful, bright children and mentored young artists throughout Kentucky. AND she told great stories…AND she made you feel that everything you said or did was an amazing and delightful discovery for her that day. These are the people we cherish.

It was final dress. I don’t remember what the distraction was. It might have been something as inconsequential as an invective haiku from Barry Baughman (UK’s Technical Director at the time) or something life-redirecting as contemplating my next meal (21-shrimp platter for $1.49 at the Kampus Korner or a grease-swimming double order of hash browns from Tolly-Ho). Whatever, the die was cast;

  • Peter spun and leapt for the hearth.
  • I pushed with my left when I should have pulled with my right.
  • I sailed Peter smoothly and head-first, straight into the corner of the hearth at an unsafe rate of speed.
  • Crunch.
  • Peter…Geoff…oldest son of one of my most-admired friends…hung in the air…head down…motionless, except for a slow, slow spin……clockwise I suppose since we are north of the equator………dead.

My first thought was; “You can clap your hands all you want but that sucker ain’t comin’ back to life.”

My second thought was; “Marilyn’s gonna be pissed.”

I lowered him to the floor. He lay there.

And finally groaned.

He breathed and then I breathed.

We lived on to do two shows together (SUMMERTREE, Guignol, 1971, and THE NIGHT THOREAU SPENT IN JAIL, 1972).

Moral of the incident?

Two things you should never do;

  • Travel with Tom Hanks, and
  • Have Roger do anything backstage.

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