“Do you believe in fairies?” by
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Eva Le Gallienne as Peter Pan 1928

When my mother was young her parents took her to Broadway to see Peter Pan,  the title role played by the actress Eva Le Gallienne who famously flew on wires over the heads of the audience.

The London-born Le G as she was called,  who died in 1991 at age 92,  was not only a celebrated actress of the day,  but a pioneering figure in the American repertory theatre movement which enabled today’s Off-Broadway.   In fact Le G founded the Civic Repertory Theatre where she not only starred as Peter Pan,  but produced and directed the show as well.

An openly gay woman in an era when lesbianism was stigmatized,  Le G had love affairs with Tululah Bankhead and others in the theatre world then known as “shadow actresses”.

But for my mother,  then a spellbound little girl sitting in that New York theatre,  Le G was Peter Pan,  the boy who wouldn’t grow up in James Barrie’s classic story being brought to life up on the stage.

And when Tinker Bell drank the poison,  my mother remembered how Peter beseeched the audience,  “Boys and girls,  if you believe in fairies clap your hands and you will save her!”

And then the theatre seemed to reverberate with the sound of hundreds of hands clapping,  and to save Tinker Bell my mother clapped hers,   and she cried out with the other children,  “I do,  I do!  I believe in fairies!”

Dana Susan Lehrman

Profile photo of Dana Susan Lehrman Dana Susan Lehrman
This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!
www.WorldThruBrownEyes.com

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Tags: Eve Le Gallienne, Peter Pan

Comments

  1. Marian says:

    Lovely reminiscence, Dana, about how magical the theater can be, and what a wonderful story Peter Pan is. Thanks, too for informing us about Eve Le Gallienne. I’d heard of her but had no idea of her bio.

  2. Khati Hendry says:

    And to think that I thought Mary Martin was the original Peter Pan. Still, a lovely bit of history and great memory of everyone clapping in fervent fairy frenzy.

  3. Suzy says:

    I so remember seeing Mary Martin every year, and clapping madly to show I believed in fairies, so Tinkerbell would be saved. Fascinating to learn that the previous generation had the same experience with Eva Le Gallienne. (FYI, her first name was Eva, not Eve.)

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    Wonder reminiscence from your mother to Eva Le G’s Peter Pan (through our recollection of Mary Martin every year on TV as Peter Pan). Every generation clapped for Tinker Bell because we strongly believed and wanted her to live. It was important to us, at a certain point that we, collectively, be caught up in believing. You make a wonderful point, Dana, about the power of the collective belief. Thank you.

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    I so remember that moment from Peter Pan, which I saw as a child, mother, and grandmother. When we took some of our grandkids to Disney many years ago, as Tinker Bell descended from the castle, my husband (stupidly) pointed out the wire, and one of our little granddaughters burst into tears. She really wanted to believe.

  6. It would have been scarring indeed if all those fervent little hands clapping did not bring Tink back to life. Or else a life lesson in the viability of magical cures. Also, not that she deserved to die but let’s not forget that Tink (in a jealous rage against Wendy, reminiscent perhaps of Tanya (or her thug companions) turning on Nancy), turned on and turned in Peter and the Lost Boys., not what one would hope from a sparkling fairy.

  7. You recreated some good magic right on the page. Well done. Like others, I am happy to have learned of the earlier incarnation of Peter Pan.

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