Yellowknife, NWT – “It was super-surprising. This is coming to Yellowknife? This little ‘nowhere’ city?”
Students at Ecole Sir John Franklin High School could not believe the news: they would learn to fly.
When their production of Disney’s Peter Pan Jr makes its debut on Wednesday evening, more than a dozen of the school’s teenagers will become the first people ever to soar above the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre (NACC) stage.
Some are thrilled. Others? Terrified.
“It is an amazing feeling,” said Matthew Curtis, one of three people playing Peter Pan. “It feels like freedom. You’re suspended, you’re not anchored to anything.”
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That view wasn’t shared by a fellow cast member. “It felt awful,” she said. “I don’t know what everyone’s talking about, ‘freedom’.
“It feels like you wet yourself after you take it off.”
All, however, agree it’s worth it to see the reaction when people see them fly.
“I didn’t think we were going to be able to pull it off,” admits Landon Peters, the show’s director.
“I think it’s great for the Yellowknife community, because this is the first time anyone has ever flown on the NACC stage.
“We are a small high school in the North, and we are going to be one of the very few high schools that have ever flown Peter Pan in Canada.”
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The school brought specialist equipment to the territory to make the flying effect happen, accompanied by Ryan McAlpine, a flying director with Flying by Foy.
McAlpine and his company make people fly for a living, ranging from productions in schools and churches to major theatrical events.
“We’re currently working on setting up two or three shows in New York City,” McAlpine told Moose FM as he watched Peter Pan rehearsals in Yellowknife.
“We provide the effect that makes flying happen. I come in, install the equipment, show everyone how to use it and direct the flying scenes.”
McAlpine only had four days to work with Sir John Franklin’s students. His parting advice for them?
“They know what everything is supposed to look like, but live theatre is an unpredictable thing. You have to remind everyone to roll with it – if they can convince the audience that what’s happening in the air is supposed to happening, then the audience will give it to them. They’ll go along on the journey.
“You have to roll with the punches, no matter what happens. It’s live theatre.”
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As for Peters, he and the cast have been putting in long hours to get the production right. Their ambitions plans to fly only add to the usual stresses as opening night approaches.
“I’m relatively cranky these days, but it’s not out of control – I’m not a screaming mess. I think in the end, it’ll be worth it,” he told Moose FM.
“That’s why you hope the community comes out and sees this, because we put in so much time to make it happen.”
Peter Pan Jr runs from November 5-8, 2014, at NACC. Tickets for the show are available from the NACC website.
CJCD Moose FM News