Originally Posted Online: June 09, 2009, 7:25 pm
Last Updated: June 10, 2009, 10:29 pm

She's flying: Peter Pan brings high excitement to Circa '21

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By Jonathan Turner, jturner@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Todd Mizener / staff
Brittany Church (Peter Pan), front, and fellow actors Zach Finn (John), Tanner Konrardy (Michael) and Lauren Van Speybroeck (Wendy) fly high over the Circa 21 Dinner Playhouse stage June 9 during a demonstration of the show's flying special effects for the media. The flying effects are being staged by ZFX, Inc. of Louisville KY. The show will premiere at the Rock Island theater June 17th and run through August 29th. For a video from Tuesday's demonstration go to qconline.com/multimedia
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Todd Mizener
Brittany Church, who is playing Peter Pan in the upcoming Circa 21 production of the same name, flies high over the Rock Island theater's stage Tuesday during a demonstration of the flying special effects for the media. Waiting to their turn to fly are fellow actors Zach Finn (John), Tanner Konrardy (Michael) and Lauren Van Speybroeck (Wendy). The flying effects are being staged by ZFX, Inc. of Louisville KY. For a video from Tuesday's demonstration go to qconline.com/multimedia
ROCK ISLAND - Brittany Church is flying high in a role she's long dreamed of playing:Peter Pan.

"It's amazing," the 20-year-old college student said Tuesday of flying in Circa '21's new production of the 1954 musical. "It's a wonderful feeling. Every night, I get to fly. It's one of the things that kids dream of.




"I always wanted to be Peter Pan," said Miss Church, saying she was 6 when, at Disney World, Peter Pan blew her a kiss during a parade. In her Circa debut, Miss Church -- who studies musical theater at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. -- gets to soar 20 feet above the stage. Unlike the Darling kids in the story, Peter Pan flies left to right across the stage. The children just move up and down.

"You put your trust in people that are flying you, to make sure you don't run into a wall," she said. "Their job is harder than mine. I land where they put me."

The flying actors wear harnesses on and above the stage as a crew of 11 choreographs their moves backstage.

"I trust the people flying us backstage. Their job is very hard," agreed Lauren Van Speybroeck, 13, of Rock Island, who plays Wendy. She said she was a little scared when they started flying practice last weekend, but it's now second nature.

"I love the show. Everything is amazing,"Lauren said. "The flying is really, really fun."

"When they said, 'You're going to be flying,' I just about jumped," said Tanner Konrardy, 12, of Davenport, who plays Michael. "The cool thing is, they make you do it over and over (in rehearsals.) "You're like, 'Sweet -- I get to fly again.'"

The show had 100 area children audition for a cast of 23; there were four callbacks.

"I like the acting and the flying," said Zach Finn, 12, of Bettendorf, who plays John. He already has seven stage acting credits under his belt from Circa, Countryside, Music Guild and Center for Living.

For "Peter Pan," Circa partnered with ZFX Inc., "the foremost theatrical flying company in the world," said Brett Hitchcock of Circa. This also is the largest cast in 'Circa's 32-year history, plus it has the most special effects, he noted.

ZFX has more than a dozen Broadway credits, including "Wicked," "Peter Pan," "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Saturday Night Fever." Brian Owens, ZFX flying director and choreographer, has done 200 "Peter Pan" productions around the world in the past three years.

ZFX is involved with 300 productions a year, typically half of those being "Peter Pan" -- ranging from middle school to Broadway. Safety is the company's top concern, Mr. Owens said.

"They don't have control over what's happening," he said of flying actors. "It happens to them."

The 3/32-inch wire attached to the actor's harness is the same used in airplane cables, he said. Compared to 50 years ago, the wires are now more durable and long-lasting. "Lighting tricks," he said, make them appear invisible to audiences.

Ms. Church's family lives in Overland Park, Kan. But her parents grew up in Geneseo, and her grandparents and many relatives live in the Quad-Cities.

"They're all very excited" to see the show, she said.

If you go 'Peter Pan' runs June 17 to Aug. 29 at 'Circa 21, 1828 3rd Ave., Rock Island. For ticket information, call 309-786-7733, ext. 2, or visit www.circa21.com.