"Welcome to the Panto, everyone! We are so happy you are here. Now, let's have some fun!!!"
These three little sentences encapsulate the enormous, celebratory, generous, and transformative spirit that is Panto. I first learned of Panto two decades ago in my early 20s. I was the assistant director to Alan Ayckbourn on the U.S. premiere of his and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s raucous and very British musical comedy, By Jeeves. Alan, Andrew, and the entire U.K. creative team would often tell hilarious stories of this wild, funny, and magical thing called Panto. I was fascinated by their colorful tales and longed to see one. It took many years, but I eventually saw my first Panto right here at People’s Light four years ago. I absolutely loved it! For a director who has worked in musical theatre, opera, Shakespeare, children’s theatre, Fire Island drag shows, cabaret, and circus, the “everything AND the kitchen sink” approach to story-telling was quite thrilling.
Panto is hard to define, but we know it when we see it. People have described Panto as a mash-up of Fairy Tale, meets Musical Theatre, meets Morality Play, meets Campy Cabaret, meets Circus. Is it any of these things? Maybe. Is it all of these things? Absolutely. Panto is a world where anything and everything one dreams is possible – as long as the creative choice comes from a sound story-telling place and is motivated at all times by celebration and generosity.
But above all else, Panto is a powerful and transformational event for all ages. There is nothing more electrifying and joyful than hearing a room full of people laughing together and cheering for goodness to triumph over evil. Panto invites us to see ourselves (our good parts and our not-so-good parts) and to laugh at ourselves. Panto offers us the opportunity to imagine together a better world – a world where all are welcomed and celebrated – and a world where redemption is possible. And there is no better time of year to experience a Panto than at the holidays – a time of year when people celebrate the power of bringing light into a darkened world, when we think about all of the people we love and the people who love us.
I hope that you will leave this theatre transformed in some way. I hope that our tale of Little Red Robin Hood will remind you during this season that you all have the power within you to make the world a better and brighter place. I hope that when you encounter darkness you will always remember to use your courage, heart, and light to do some good — and that we are all joyfully cheering for you!
On behalf of our entire Little Red Robin Hood family, I would like to wish you all a joy and love-filled holiday season. And I hope that in the new year we will all work together to bring more light into our world.
- Bill Fennelly, Director
Little Red Robin Hood runs November 13 through January 5. Click here for tickets and more info!