Girlfight: Best men for buccaneering are women in local student performance of ‘Peter Pan’


(Imagining the scenario in the land of alternative reality: A student performance of “Peter Pan” featuring an all-female lead cast ended in rioting by parents who assaulted teachers in the audience and tore down the stage set while denouncing the “brainwashing” of youths by coercing them into positive portrayals of homosexuality, transsexuality and racial stereotypes. Angry murmurs throughout the play erupted into violence during the play’s climactic moment when Peter Pan pleaded with the audience to show their belief in fairies…)

Meanwhile in this most-cool town it wasn’t part of any tolerance, diversity or other politically correct exercise. It just turns out the best man for the job was a woman.


Emma Grønseth, left, and Sara Andrea Markusson Heitmann dance as the lead couple in “Peter Pan.” Photo by Mark Sabbatini / Icepeople.

More than 70 Longyearbyen School students got the expected standing ovation after performing the well-known fantasy play Friday at Kulturhuset despite a female namesake, female Captain Hook (and crew) and decidedly un-PC Indians.

Casting female lead characters wasn’t a deliberate decision, said Sigvart Bjøntegaard, a teacher responsible for promoting the play.

“They were the best actors,” he said.


Ronja Hermansen leads an all-female pirate crew in Longyearbyen School’s performance of “Peter Pan.” Photo by Mark Sabbatini / Icepeople.

Although the elaborate stage set at Kulturhuset was built in a week, work on the play began in March, Bjøntegaard said. Auditions resulted in the lead role being played by Sara Andrea Markusson Heitmann, a tenth-grade student who said the hardest part about playing The Boy Who Refused To Grow up was getting into character. She said ‘it’s hard to say” why she was chosen for the role.

 “I think it’s because there aren’t a lot of boys who wanted to,” she said.

Her nemesis Captain Hook was played by Ronja Hermansen, an eighth-grade student Bjøntegaard said has ideal talents for a villain.


Sara Andrea Markusson Heitmann and Ronja Hermansen engage in the climactic sword fight in “Peter Pan.” Photo by Mark Sabbatini / Icepeople.

“She is a good actor and she has a good memory because she had to say so much,” he said. “She has red hair and that makes it kind of fun.”

Casting an all-female pirate crew also was based purely on merit, according to Bjøntegaard. among them was Marikken Lian Seim, a bandana-clad rogue who achieved the dastardly feat of capturing Peter Pan. She said that while the choreography was difficult, there was plenty of virtue in being one of the bad girls

“You get to scare people,” she said.