Hello again, readers! With the upcoming arrival (or flight, if you will) of Peter Pan I have been thinking a lot lately about the art of stage flying. An audience's reaction to an actor flying on stage or through the theatre has fascinated me for years. People just love it! I have even been known to joke around by saying if a show is not that good - just make the actors fly! Just a harness and a couple of wires...it sounds easy enough, right? Mmmm, not so much.
There is a reason I should have paid attention in my 11th grade Physics class, if only to understand the sheer mechanics of stage flying. I had no idea how much was involved in not only making actors fly, but also moving scenery and changing background scrims. Battens and lines and blocks and counterweights...what does it all mean? The only answer I have for that is LEAVE IT TO THE PROS!
Believe it or not, stage flying has been around since 428 BC when an actor playing Aphrodite soared to the top of the main scene building in Euripides' play Hippolytus. Fast forward 1500 years and the father of stage flying, Peter Foy, perfected and reinvented the seamless way actors soar through the air today. According to the “Flying By Foy” website:
Peter Foy applied his artistic vision and mechanical ingenuity to the challenge of safely flying performers in a variety of different and often difficult circumstances. His creation of the Inter-Related Pendulum helped define Mary Martin’s barnstorming performance as Peter Pan for the 1954 Broadway musical and ushered in a new era of spectacular, highly-controlled, natural-looking free flight.
A protégé of Peter Foy, Paul Rubin (known as "The Fly Guy") is the aerial choreographer for the Peter Pan tour that will come to TUTS December 11. Paul is currently celebrating his 24th year in the flying industry! He has choreographed over 300 productions of Peter Pan in 8 different countries and numerous Broadway and Off-Broadway productions.
Like I mentioned earlier, I think I'll leave the flying to the professionals and just sit back and enjoy their work in awe. Rest assured that I will not be working on any fly systems in the theatre any time soon!
Here's a list of shows that involve actors flying; can you think of more?
Wizard of Oz
Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
It's A Bird... It's A Plane... It's Superman
Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark
Until next time,