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Native American playwright embraces the magic and storytelling of new 'Peter Pan'

Musical to show at ASU Gammage June 11–16

People in costume performing a play onstage.

The cast of "Peter Pan" perform “Friends Forever.” From left: Nolan Almeida as Peter Pan, Kenny Ramos as Acoma, Raye Zaragoza as Tiger Lily and others in the the cast of "Peter Pan." Photo by Matthew Murphy

May 09, 2024

Larissa FastHorse, a member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation and a celebrated playwright, initially rejected the offer to write an additional book for the beloved classic "Peter Pan" for a Broadway national tour revival.

'Peter Pan' at ASU Gammage

June 11–16

Tickets available now

As a creative whose work usually combines a keen sense of satire with dramatic forms in plays that are funny, incisive and at times deeply unsettling for audiences faced with the realities of the Native American experience in the United States, she wanted nothing to do with a musical that has etched wounds in her community for its misrepresentation of Indigenous peoples. 

Once reading the script, however, her focus shifted to how beautiful and complicated a story like this was. Unable to find its accessibility and appeal as a young girl, FastHorse now saw this as an opportunity to speak to the many generations who hold this story close to their hearts. 

"Peter Pan" is the high-flying musical that has been thrilling audiences of all ages for close to 70 years, and is now being brought back to life in a new adaptation that will show at ASU Gammage June 11–16.

Portrait of Larissa FastHorse
Larissa FastHorse

Directed by Emmy Award-winner Lonny Price and choreographed by Lorin Latarro, this musical is full of excitement and adventure, featuring iconic and timeless songs including “I’m Flying,” “I Gotta Crow,” “I Won’t Grow Up” and “Neverland.”

ASU Gammage had the honor of working with FastHorse to present the show "Native Nation" as part of the 2019 Beyond series. Most recently, FastHorse was the 2023 ASU Gammage Gammy Award recipient, an award that honors those who have made significant contributions to the Broadway community. She is also an ASU professor of practice in ASU’s Department of English and the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

FastHorse was adamant that this iteration of "Peter Pan" is not a “reimagining.” Instead, it is a celebration of the story we know and love, expanding upon elements of Sir J.M. Barrie’s source material to make it enjoyable for everyone. 

When working on an additional book, FastHorse and the creative team quickly defined three goals for the production: First, shorten the original three-hour production to a more digestible two hours, making it more family friendly and accessible. Second, re-write the Native American experience with more intentionality and eliminate harm. And third, have Wendy and Tiger Lily, the two main heroines, play a larger role in the story independent from Peter Pan’s presence. 

FastHorse was excited to share that, contrary to the representation in many Broadway productions, there are four Native American actors cast in this musical. 

“Neverland is a magical place made up of fairies and pirates, a place where no one ever grows old. The idea of Indigenous or traditionally Native American people like Tiger Lily and her tribe being there was an inherent problem that had to be resolved,” FastHorse said. 

“We're real people and we must ask: Why are we in Neverland?” FastHorse explained. “So what I chose to do with this play is I took Tiger Lily and I kept her name, because it's iconic and beloved, and she's now the leader of this tribe of people. But each of those people is the last of an extinct culture somewhere in the world. They come here because they never grow old, so they can preserve their culture in a place where they're safe and hope that one day they can return to this world and bring their culture with them. I use the magic of Neverland as a positive for these people, as somewhere where they can survive, preserve, grow and keep their culture going until they find another home for it.” 

For FastHorse, one of the most magical parts working with the "Peter Pan" creative team was seeing the magic come alive onstage through set design. A few of the many accredited creatives include Paul Kieve (“Tinker Bell” design), David Bengali (projection design) and Kai Harada (sound design). 

Working on "Peter Pan" meant creating space for everyone to come together. For those in the audience that have three — even four — generations of theatergoers in attendance, FastHorse is certain the story will speak to everyone. 

“It will hit you differently depending on where you’re at in your life,” she said. “Childhood is a beautiful thing, and growing up is a beautiful thing, too. That’s what this show is all about.”

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