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A soaring production: East Ridge to perform ‘Wendy and Peter Pan’

Tinkerbell (Gabby Franus) and Peter Pan (Cam Stevens) fly around the set of "Wendy and Peter Pan" during one of the first days of flying rehearsal. Photo by Casey Eakins1 / 2
East Ridge High School is preparing for the production of "Wendy and Peter Pan," a modern rendition of the classic "Peter Pan." This play will be the first time that East Ridge students "fly" on stage. The three Darling children (shown), Pan and Tinkerbell will all take flight. From left Alex Doran, Lauren Nelson and Adam Garrity. Photo by Casey Eakins2 / 2

Most schools say that they want their students to fly high and soar, though the majority do not take those phrases as literally as East Ridge High School. For the first time, East Ridge students will be flying in a school play.

"Wendy and Peter Pan" is the Royal Shakespeare Company's modern retelling of the classic Peter Pan. Wendy is put at the center of the play that focuses on some of the darker themes that dwell just below the surface of the classic tale.

For the Loft Stage's 10th season, the school decided to "go big" with the Broadway-hit "Les Miserables" in the fall and "Wendy and Peter Pan" this spring. Both require large casts, and intensive sets; a pirate ship that is almost large enough to sail the seas and a clubhouse for the Lost Boys that looks like every child's dream home are two of the sets for this show. And, of course, there is also the flying.

The school did not have the equipment needed for actors to safely fly across stage. So, cables, tracks, pulleys and more were installed. After about 10 hours of work, the actors could begin their flying lessons, which were a lot less glamorous than one might imagine flying would be.

Each actor who flies wears a harness under their costume. According to the director, Kathryn Carlson, the tighter the harness is, the safer it is. However, those wearing the safety gear describe it as having "the world's worst wedgie."

Once the harness is on, actors are attached to a cable so that they can fly. The cables, according to Carlson, can hold up to 700 pounds, yet, they are so thin it can be hard to see them from the back of the theater. Instead of having the characters run-off stage to get connected to a cable, they are hooked-up while on stage. Other characters try to discreetly fasten them to the cable.

It is easy to get lost in the visual beauty and stunning staging of this show but the acting is also worth noting. Each of the pirates offers a humorous performance, Smee (Elizabeth Avery) is brilliant and Captain Hook (McCrossen Schiller) finds a way to be both relatable and revolting. Tinker Bell (Gabby Franus) or "Tink," as she is usually referred to throughout the play, shines in the production (as does her tutu that is filled with a string of lights).

The main part of the show that may cause theater-goers pause is the British accents used by the majority of the characters. While most of the accents are obviously British, some actors do better than others making them believable. But, if the audience can suspend disbelief that fairy dust can cause someone to fly and that a giant crocodile hunts a pirate, the accents can be overlooked.

For more information about "Wendy and Peter Pan" and for tickets, visit www.theloftstage.org.

If you go ...

What: "Wendy and Peter Pan"

When: 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, May 2-4; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 5

Where: The Loft Stage, East Ridge High School

Cost: Adult: $6, Senior: $4, Student/child: $4

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