It’s been a long road of perseverance and discovery for South Pasadena High School senior Lorie Meza, on her way to being cast in the lead role of “Peter Pan” in this year’s spring musical on campus.
Having watched Disney’s Peter Pan perhaps a hundred times in her childhood, getting to play this role is a dream come true and the culmination of a lifelong journey.
From the time she was two years old, Meza watched Disney movies obsessively and performed “two-hour long musicals off the top of my head” for her parents using the backyard patio for her stage and stuffed animals as co-stars. Her first role in elementary school was Little Red Riding Hood and after begging her parents for years for classes, she finally got to start taking summer school acting lessons. During this time, having seen their daughter’s passion, her parents Melissa and Paul found an agent for her and took her to commercial auditions. She was cast as the Cheshire Cat in the 5th grade production of “Alice in Wonderland” and was riding high as she headed into the vibrant program at the middle school, where she was faced with her first bumps in the road.
Lorie remembers being so excited to be a part of the middle school musicals and was devastated when she wasn’t cast in 6th grade and again in 7th. She began to really doubt herself, even though she was finally cast in the ensemble in 8th grade. She even stopped doing theatre for a period of time.
When she got to high school, she decided to give it another shot and she instantly fell back in love with all of the things she had once felt so connected to. She felt supported and validated and found her tribe. She was cast in Beauty and The Beast and found herself in a diverse cast where everyone was as thrilled as she was to be a part of it. She had featured solos and with the fire lit again, Meza sought out further training at Theatre 360 in Pasadena. By sophomore year Meza was in drama class at school, cast in “The Boy Friend”, as well as taking several classes at Theatre 360, attending their summer camp and cast in their summer production of Xanadu.
More validation and bigger roles came last year when she was cast against type and gender in the key role of the solicitor, Mayhew, in Witness for The Prosecution and as the boozy, acerbic Joanne in Stephen Sondheim’s Company. She brought the house down in the latter with her powerful rendition of “Ladies Who Lunch”.
Which brings us to auditioning for Peter Pan. Having felt at first leery of some of the racially insensitive moments in the 1954 musical, Meza decided to go for it, thinking she could try out for Tiger Lily and make some strong choices and make sure she was a powerful character. Director, Daniel Enright, also assured the cast that they would be making minor adjustments to the script, just as the recent NBC production had done, to make it more palatable to a modern audience. Musical director, Lia Donovan, gave several of the actors the song “I’m Flying” to learn. Meza says that as she started singing the song it dawned on her that she was really having fun and she thought maybe this was something she could do and that she could bring a lot of life to the role. By callbacks, she had decided to put her hat in the ring for Peter. She explains “I was really nervous because I was the only non-white female trying out and I felt odds were against me but I got in there and sang every song and did everything I could, I think I even rolled! Hey look, I can roll!” Meza cracks up at the memory. “So I come to school the day the cast list was posted and my friend Anders runs up, hugs me and says “congratulations!” And I thought, oh cool, I got Tiger Lily. But I walked up to the list and saw that I was Peter! My first thought was that I am very afraid of heights!”
With rehearsals underway Lorie reflects on how much it means to be playing this role. She says “I had forgotten how much I love this story. This is such an important character to play because he is the embodiment of childhood. Playing Peter has given me the opportunity to have fun and go back to what I originally wanted to do with theatre and just enjoy myself.” She goes on to express how excited she is to bring this story to the community saying, “hopefully it inspires people to want to try theatre…to get kids to maybe want to be on stage…even a few. That’s the goal. The whole cast is diverse and has been cast because of what they’re going to bring versus what they look like. I also hope it gives people of color the courage to try out for roles.” Meza says “we may be a non-traditional cast but we are being traditional in terms of the characters and the story. There’s so much that’s more important in the story than what race people are.”
The whole community can look forward to seeing Lorie’s performance in this family friendly production that will hit SPHS main theatre April 28, 29 & 30.