Mary Poppins: The magic of flying

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DSC02251The theater is a place where it appears as though anything is possible. Individuals embrace new characters and magical events take place. One magical aspect within the theater is the concept of flying; suddenly a character is soaring through the air enticing the audience members with every whirl. But how does this magical occurrence take place? Within Bethel’s spring musical, Mary Poppins, the two main characters Bert and Mary both fly at various times throughout the musical. Due to the rarity of flying within a Bethel musical, we decided to take a backstage look into the magical concept. Sophomore Joshua Maurer is playing the role of Bert within the musical and was able to give us a bit of his personal experience with flying. When asked about this experience, Josh stated, “The flying is interesting. When I first started out doing it at our first rehearsal, we had a special technician come in and teach us how to do it. We have on a harness to fly, the harness is very uncomfortable. The first night I think I flew for an hour or two and I was feeling it a little bit. The second night I flew for I think, three and a half hours and I was just a “crunched piece of toast” by the end of that night, it was just so much pain.” When asked if flying continued to be as painful, Maurer replied, “As I’ve done it night after night I’ve gotten used to it more. It’s still pretty painful, but that’s the biggest thing; it just crunches you and sucks the life energy out of you. It’s really fun to feel suspended in the air, but it definitely comes at a price; you feel it when you’re done.” Although the art of flying appears to take its toll, according to Maurer there are several other factors included with flying. He stated, “Another big thing is balance. You think, well I have to do all these things while I’m hanging up there, but actually it’s just a matter of moving your body part to affect your balance. I move certain part of myself forward and then go back and then I turn all the way around, and so it all really is heavily based in balance.” Maurer said it was a difficult concept to adapt to. “It was really hard because all of the movement is counter movement especially when you get upside down and you’re doing actions such as moving forward and backwards. You have to do the opposite of what you normally would do in that situation. For instance, if I’m doing a flip, I have to use my core and propel my body, well the exact opposite happens when you’re flying; you just sit there and you actually move like you’d be doing a backflip, but you go forward. It was really hard to get in my head, and it took me a long time to be able to get it without just hanging upside down and not moving.” So obviously, Maurer himself is doing large amounts of work while suspended in the air, but who are the other masterminds behind the scenes. He stated, “It takes two people to move me. There’s a guy who moves me up and down and then a person who travels me.” And how do these two individuals move an actor seemingly effortlessly through the air? Maurer stated, “With a pulley system, to launch me the pull guy will pull me in the air and the travel will rope me down the line; another pulley system that moves me horizontally across the ground. So they have to work together very closely to get a diagonal because you have to move up and across at the same time.” When asked what he thought was the most difficult aspect within the flying concept Maurer stated, “I think that the hardest part was for the flyers to work together with what I was doing and the momentum I was giving them in my different balance things, and then trying to work with each other to get the up, down, diagonals, and different things.” Although there are only a small group of individuals currently running the fly system, it was a large effort to begin the new theatrical aspect. When asked about the origination of the system Maurer stated, “ZFX is where the system came from. They brought everything; they had to put up a big truss and an I-beam and hang up everything to do with it because we had nothing. A professional came in and spent a whole day just putting up the system.” Although they now had a system, the actors could not simply begin flying, some training was required. Maurer stated, “The guy from ZFX trained us for a few hours and then he spent one more night with us doing extensive training and then we’ve been on our own since then. He was really professional and had been doing it for a long time, so we felt really good about it when he was there, a little scary when he left, but we feel pretty good about it now.” From much time and effort, the magical aspect of flying has been able to be brought to life on Bethel’s stage. The performances of Mary Poppins are March 17th, 18th, and 19th at 7:30 and March 19th at 1p.m. Tickets are on sale and are $15 for adults, and $13 for students and seniors.
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