Beth Richter, who played the title role in Greenport High School’s infamous production of Peter Pan a decade ago, is admittedly fuzzy on the details surrounding the hilarious incident involving falling set pieces and actors flying chaotically across the stage. “To be honest, I think I kind of blacked out,” she says. “I remember being really, really terrified and then just having an insane amount of adrenaline. I actually had a bruise, because my leg is what hit the set piece. I had no feeling of it until like a day later because there was so much adrenaline running through me. Looking back on it, it’s crazy but in the actual moment I’ve got almost no memory of it!” Luckily for Richter, the whole thing went viral.
Being involved with the local East End theater community, Richter uploaded her “Greenport Peter Pan fiasco” video to YouTube so her friends and family who hadn’t been there that night could see the insanity for themselves. “I was like, ‘You can’t believe this thing that just happened to me!’ and we put it online, mostly so people could see, and family that lived other places,” Richter explains. “We were laughing about it, but it was really just for our immediately circle of friends and family. There was absolutely no expectation that it would go anywhere at all.” Of course, the video went viral. “If I remember correctly, it got picked up on AOL.com back when it was still a big news site—one of their ‘you have to check this out, look at this thing that happened’ articles. And that’s when it started going crazy. That was almost a year later, I think, after we put it online, and then we got called by Tyra Banks.”
Looking back, Richter is amazed at how well everyone handled the incident, both onstage and off. “We hooked ourselves right back up,” she says. “It’s so funny because I had been full of nerves after the first night. It was the first time I’d been in a show this big and doing a role this large, and the second night I was not nervous at all until that moment, until the end of that show when I got back into that spot, I was just like, ‘Oh God, here we go,’ but it was absolutely no nerves. It was, ‘Okay…this is old hat, let’s get the show over with.’ It went perfectly the next two performances. Everyone was overly cautious!”
Richter and her friends in the play were invited to appear on The Tyra Banks Show. “That was absolutely surreal,” Richter recalls. “And to be honest, I don’t very much have a memory of actually being on the show, but I remember finding out and realizing they wanted us to come on and being like, ‘Oh my god!’ We’re some small-town kids out on the East End, like, this doesn’t happen to us, and being absolutely floored.” The recognition didn’t stop with Tyra Banks. Richter soon appeared on a Tosh.0 “Web Redemption” video lampooning the ill-fated performance opposite comedian Daniel Tosh on Comedy Central.
While Richter, now out of college and working in the nonprofit sector, didn’t pursue theater as a career, she looks back fondly on her high school days, with Peter Pan serving as a great reminder of the sense of wonder and love so many theater kids feel in their youth. “I guess, when I think back to that time, my absolute best days were the days I was doing theater,” she says. “The people in my theater group were my best friends. We did everything together. I don’t think there’s a way to explain that in single instances. We were all in each other’s pockets all the time. We were all spread out across the North Fork and the South Fork. We were all involved in each other’s lives and relied on each other for everything. It kind of created a community that I’ve gotten in other places, but it’s different when you’re a theater kid. Those people are the backbone to everything you do.”