Five actors are going to be using long-unused swim moves and dance lessons to navigate another dimension in Peter Pan Jr. The Belleville West production is moving Peter, Tinkerbell, Wendy and her brothers into the air.
Wendy — or Rachel Deschaine — was loving the idea of flying around at the first flight rehearsal on Monday.
“I’ve been dreaming about this,” she said before her first liftoff.
Belleville West teachers and directors Brandon Hentze and Nick Johnson started looking for a flight company last summer, soon after they decided on Peter Pan as the children’s play for the year.
“You can do Peter Pan where you push someone around on a skateboard; or you can do Peter Pan,” Hentze said.
The directors had heard of one other production in the area with flight, sometime in the 1970s.
“The last time it was an English teacher with a rope and a pulley,” Hentze said.
You can do Peter Pan where you push someone around on a skateboard; or you can do Peter Pan.
Belleville West teacher and director Brandon Hentze
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See a 360-degree video to fly with Peter Pan.
Drag your cursor around to see above, below and around Peter as he flies in this video. Want he full dizzying experience? Watch it on your smartphone and hold the phone in front of you as you swivel in your office chair.
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The school landed on Hall Associates Flying FX, out of DeKalb, partly because the company has done the show before. The $8,000 cost will be covered by ticket sales and advertising.
Hall Associates set up three flight paths that will essentially move the actors up and down only; any other movement that Wendy, Michael and John do will not be controlled by the crew. The two others — Tinkerbell and Peter — will have one set of ropes and pulleys that will lift each, and another set that will move them across the stage. Their speed and direction is controlled by the crew.
Monday’s rehearsal was intended to get the flying actors used to the harnesses and rigging, as well as to introduce them to flying techniques. John Moore, the representative from Hall, said using their arms and legs in swimming or dance motions would help them face the audience; and constant small movements help it look more real.
“When I was up there, I leaned back — and I looked kind of weird,” Micheal played by Elizabeth Kearns told Hall’s flying director.
“It’s true,” said John Moore, who has worked with the flight company since 2005.
He had earlier told the actors to use their core muscles to remain upright, even exaggerate their posture a little so that their hips will stay under their heads while in the air. He also told them to “play to the lights” while flying, if they were to look down toward the audience then their bodies will tip forward. He said they need to land on one foot and step forward with the other, otherwise they’re likely to stumble. There was a lot for the cast to remember, even while the harness chafed and their lesser used muscles got a workout just to keep them upright.
Three of the cast, Wendy and her brothers played by Kearns and Kaylon Brown, will mostly go up and down. Tinkerbell played by Bailey Guinn and Peter played by Nathan Hirst will go vertical and traverse, meaning they will fly across the stage.
I’m excited, but I’m dying inside.
Kaylon Brown, Belleville West student
Senior Brandi Karbowiak is one of the seven crew members tasked with actually hauling the actors into and around the air. With teacher Jamie Klein, she will be navigating for Peter.
“It’s actually pretty easy,” she said during rehearsal. She had expected the work to be more complex, “I’m just pulling it up and down, (Klein) does all the weight, I just make him (Peter) move.”
“You have the easier one, but kind of the more important one,” Klein said, because Karbowiak’s work will make Peter traverse the stage through the air.
Karbowaik plans to attend Bradley University in Peoria next year to pursue a technical theater degree.
William Rutledge, a junior, typically mans the lights for Belleville West performances.
“I filled out an application for lights and got put on this,” he said. He and sophomore Sarah Hayden will use the ropes and pulleys to move Tinkerbell around.
The two pairs of crew working with Tinkerbell and Peter are learning to work as a unit and will soon do it without talking backstage.
“We have a couple days like this,” Sarah said, “then we’ll be able to do it without communicating.”
Moore, of the flight company, will be with the students for three rehearsals. After that, its the students and Klein backstage in charge of the flight paths and rigging.
John Darling played by freshman Kaylon Brown had mixed emotions on the flying, admitting he had looked forward to it.
“It’s really fun, but insane. Terrifying. I love it,” he said. “I’m excited, but I’m dying inside.”
Want to go?
- What: Peter Pan Jr.
- When: 7 p.m. Feb. 4 and Feb. 5
- Where: Belleville West’s Performing Arts Center
- How much: $5 for adults, $4 for students, $3 for children under 12
- Tickets: Can be purchased online at bwpeterpan.
- Starring: Nathan Hirst, Bailey Guinn, Rachel Deschaine, Elizabeth Kearns and Kaylon Brown