News Feature

Flying Over the Rainbow

FPAC's The Wizard of Oz takes off - literally

Oz is an enchanted land where witches and even monkeys can fly, but ever wonder how they do it?

The cast and crew at Bridgewater State University’s Family Performing Arts Center are eager to show off their flying skills in The Wizard of Oz, opening Friday on the Rondileau Campus Center stage.

“There are so many huge story elements that involve characters and things flying,” said Director Andrew Child. “The fact that we can literally do that is super exciting and allows us to tell the story so much more clearly because rather than asking an audience to fully imagine that a witch is in the air, she can actually be soaring over everyone’s heads.”

Thanks to a system of ropes, pulleys and harnesses largely hidden from the audience, several characters will fly above the stage, leaving many theatergoers to remark: “Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Bridgewater anymore.”

“It adds a little more magic to the show,” said Haley McKenney, who plays Glinda and is flying for the first time in her career. “It might be something people aren’t expecting, especially the little ones.”

Flying is a technical challenge that takes weeks of preparation. Actors were fitted for harnesses and Costume Designer Mary Hurd created outfits to accommodate the harnesses. Actors and crew rehearsed with a representative of Flying by Foy, a company that provided the equipment. They mastered the art of gracefully soaring and moving their bodies in the air and learned to operate the system to ensure everything runs like a well-oiled Tin Man.

During a performance, there’s lots happening backstage. For one scene, the Wicked Witch is hooked up, lifted in the air and steadied, flown quickly across the stage and back, and lowered to the ground.

“Just the process of lifting her up in the air is probably two or three times longer than the actual effect,” said Emmett Buhmann, an assistant professor of theater at BSU and the technical director for the production.

Sometimes, an actor will land or lift off in full view of the audience. That requires creative choreography so other thespians can seamlessly connect or disconnect the actor from the system.

The extra effort is more than worth it to Buhmann: “I think the audience is really going to love that pop.”

The Wizard of Oz will be performed July 19-21 and 25-28. Click here for tickets.

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