CAMDEN—“Hitting your mark” as an actor is always a challenge on stage. Try doing it 15 feet in the air.
For Camden Hills Regional High School’s upcoming performances of Mary Poppins in November, Theater Teacher Rick Ash and Tech Director Tom Heath knew they were going to need some help with the theatrical side of flying. After all, Mary Poppins is known for taking off with her parrot-handled magical umbrella alongside her chimney sweep sidekick, Bert.
“Tom and I have used theatrical flying techniques multiple times in past productions such as Peter Pan and Wizard of Oz,” Ash said. The go-to company for this service is Flying By Foy, the most prolific and widely-respected theatrical flying service in the world. Established by Peter Foy, a stage flying effects specialist who founded his company in 1957, Flying By Foy is based in Las Vegas with specialists all over the country.
With support from Youth Arts, Ash and Heath employed a rigging specialist, Perry Fertig, affiliated with Flying By Foy, from the University of Southern Maine to go to the high school. For two days, Fertig taught the students and the crew how to use the “Track on Track” flying system in the Strom Auditorium, and which allows the performer to be lifted by ropes and move vertically and horizontally across the stage.
The system is one of several Flying by Foy patented mechanical inventions.
“The students did really well with it,” said Ash, who added that while the students loved the flying part of it, the harness isn’t always comfortable to wear, which is an added layer to one’s acting challenges on stage.
“Fertig taught them how to balance themselves while they were up in the air, but more than that, he was actually choreographing certain moves with them,” said Ash. “When Mary flies away at the end of the show, it has to be done very specifically. Meanwhile, we have three people backstage on the pulley system, two people on the lift line, and one person on the travel side of it, all working together to make sure Mary hits her mark.”
This production is one of CHRHS’ most ambitious musicals to date with 14 scenes in each act. This show features flying actors, multiple sets, numerous costume changes and a professionally painted backdrop by Scenic Art Studios under the direction of Tony Award winning owners Joe and Deb Forbes.