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High Profile: Flying Actor
Photograph by Annette Navarro
He flies, never ages, crosses swords with pirates—and drinks the house lager at Arthur’s. Joshua Steele is taking on a century-old role this month at the Cincinnati Music Theater: Peter Pan.
“When you see Peter Pan fly, there are two guys backstage. Each of them has a rope. So there are two guys with your life in their hands. There’s flying in the nursery scene; he flies out the window; he flies and sword fights with Captain Hook—there’s all kinds of choreography in that; but keeping your body moving the way you want and achieving that elegance we think of is really difficult.”
“Self confidence, teamwork, working under deadlines, discipline—you’ve got to learn your lines, and you’ve got to learn your notes.”
“It’s the first thing we talked about: ‘I’ve never seen Peter Pan played by a dude.'”
“When American audiences think about Peter Pan on stage, we think about this weird mix between a woman and a boy. It’s OK, we accept it, but there’s something lost. Peter Pan—it’s boys playing in the woods. It’s sword fights. Peter’s a dark character. He kills pirates. He literally kills them. They get in sword fights to the death. He’s cocky, he’s selfish, but he’s charming. He’s quintessentially boyish.”
“He never learns anything, so when Wendy comes back, it’s spring cleaning time. She asks him about Tinkerbell and Captain Hook [and] he can’t remember. How tragic is that? It’s this crazy duality of you’re young forever, but you’re young forever. You never grow, and it’s really a special, weird, beautiful place to inhabit.”
“I had to think about it a lot. As an actor, while you want to be challenged, you also don’t want to be put in irreconcilable positions to fail.”
“There are folks who make their living being actors in this town. That’s very exciting to say when you’re not in Chicago or New York or L.A.”
“If Steely Dan called and asked me to be their lead singer and go on tour I’d leave in a heartbeat. I’d give it all up.”