I promised you a Peter Pan Act II (Act I was way back last year) and since John’s busy on the road this week, I figured I’d jump in.
For a couple of years in the late 50’s and early 60’s, the Baltimore Actors Theater did a production of Peter Pan. It always starred BAT’s founder, Helen Grigal but all other parts were up for grabs. Which meant auditions for lost boys. Which meant Howard was there at auditions and, eventually was cast as a lost boy.
I sat in the auditorium and on occasion, in my role as little sister and tag-along (ably supported by our mother) I was allowed in the hallowed backstage as an oversight. No one thought to say no to my being there, which Mom took as yes.
I stood in the wings with grown men dressed as pirates and crocodiles, Indians rushing past me as they hurried onto stage. I was in awe and in love and, in my street clothes, invisible. This was the beginning of my life-long relationship with the wings.
More to the point, it was also a moment in the beginning of Howard’s life-long relationship with the stage.
I recently found a note the Mrs. Grigal sent after Howard died. She wrote about him playing a lost boy back when he was nine or ten. Even then, “he was so serious about the stage,” she wrote.
After last week’s post, someone asked John whether Howard had always been so stubborn when he thought he was right (given the Disney stories of Howard’s temper that have become legend). I’ll have a few things to say about that in a later post but it reminded me of that note. Howard was funny and fun, full of the pleasure as well as the pain of creation, he wrote silly, silly songs. And he was serious, so very serious, about what he did…even when what he did involved dancing clams and singing teapots.
BTW, in writing this week’s blog, I found this article from the Baltimore Sun that talks about those Peter Pan productions and some of the amazing talent that came from that Baltimore stage.