The magic begins again when the two-time Emmy Award winning and two-time Tony® Award-nominated production "Peter Pan" takes flight. Cathy Rigby is back in an all new production of PETER PAN, coming to the Fox Theatre Aug. 7-12.
On a recent trip to Atlanta, Cathy graciously agreed to an interview. I wanted to know after performing Peter Pan more than 3,000 times how she manages to keep each performance fresh.
She answered that she draws heavily from her 8-year-old grandson, who just naturally personifies Peter Pan. She also watches and listens to children as they are discussing the show while leaving the theater.
"Children are so spontaneous and curious and live in the moment ... I just try to wipe my memory chip clean of any preconceived notions and find something new each time. There are so many ways to get to the same place by using different tactics." Because she plays off the audience, every show is slightly different. Her goal is always to streamline and improve the role without being predictable.
I asked if it is difficult to transform into a boy. In the beginning, she had to concentrate more, but she's done it so long it's just second nature to her now.
"Boys are more economical in movement and they usually don't look directly at you. They pretend to be doing something else while they are actually listening to you, then in a flash, they are in your face! Boys are very unpredictable."
How is Cathy Rigby like Peter Pan? "Well, I've always been a tomboy and very adventurous and mischievous like Peter. He also had no one to rely on but himself and gymnastics taught me to be self reliant and to work alone. Although my mother was confined in a wheelchair with polio, she raised five children who never sensed that she was handicapped. She was my role model and taught me that determination and hardwork can overcome limitations."
Is it difficult to fly? Again, its second nature to her now, both with one wire to fly and with two to flip, but it was difficult to learn. "It's so easy to get tangled or twisted and hard to stay facing the audience. The same two men have flown me for 18 years and that gives me the confidence to be spontaneous and fearless."
She could only remember two mishaps in those 18 years. Once, the wires were crossed. When the men intended to pull on Peter's wire to make him fly, but unsuspecting Jane got jerked up instead to everyone's surprise! The only real mishap occurred during a fight with Captain Hook when Cathy was hit by his sword and required 17 stitches over her eye.
When asked what is her favorite scene, Cathy replied that she has two. The first is the production number at Peter's underground home, where we learn why Peter lives there. Then, after the Lost Boys and the Indians make friends, "there are seven minutes of wild dancing, drumming and abandonment. It's wonderful!" Her second favorite moment is at the end of the show as she flys away and sprinkles fairy dust over the audience. "It's magical!"
She answered why she thinks Peter Pan is such a beloved and timeless story by saying, "Adults love the memory of childhood's innocence and the bitter-sweetness of growing up. But children love the adventure and fantasy where there is no responsibility and anything is possible, there is always hope, the good guy always wins and you get to go home in the end. It brings out the fearlessness of children.
She remembers one show when Peter is in bed and Captain Hook is sneaking in to poison him. Although this tiny little girl must have been very afraid, she jumped up and shouted, "Wake up, Peter, wake up!"
I am a huge admirer of Cathy Rigby's accomplishments. She has achieved excellence in two diverse careers which each took a lot of dedication, hard work and perseverance. I asked if she had any insight into how mothers can nurture and instill that level of aspiration and commitment in our children? She said, "Find out what your child loves and dreams about, then be supportive. Parents sometimes get too involved, back off but expose them to the right people. Hold them accountable for the hard work, it's the process that makes the difference more than anything. I've seen what getting involved with something you love can do for children. They come out of their shells and that confidence translates into their schoolwork. If they love it, they will do it for themselves."
I asked which she prefers, gymnastics or theater. Although she loves both, she prefers theater because it is an extension of gymnastics that is not just about skill and perfection. Its more about the gift of giving to others. She said, "I sort of feel like Santa Claus in that it is an amazing privilege to be a part of someone making childhood memories with their own children. I can't imagine that they actually pay me to do this!"
PETER PAN is a unique, family-friendly attraction of spectacle and fantasy. The thrill of flying, timeless magical moments and a captivating hook will mesmerize young and old alike. The legend you thought you knew, is now the adventure you never dreamed possible…Cathy Rigby is PETER PAN!
Tickets range from $25 to $65 and are on sale now at www.FoxATLTix.com or by calling 855-ATL-TIXX (855-285-8499). Special group rates for 10 or more are available by calling 404-881-2000, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or online at www.foxtheatre.org/groupsales.aspx.
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