#MakeMaryFly

Maddie Hawes, writer

Michael and Jane Banks sing their hearts out, pleading for a new nanny to come. Once they finish their song, they turn to look as their new nanny magically floats into the room. With pointed feet and sleek umbrella drawn, Mary makes her signature flight on the stage; in KHS’s recent production of Mary Poppins, Cara Palombo, junior, entered the stage by soaring above every other actor, which had not been done by KH Players in ten years.

“That was the fun part of it; we got to show the audience something we don’t normally do here,” Maggie O’Brien, junior, said.

When the show was first introduced, KH Players did not have the budget to allow Mary to fly. However, they already had the equipment to fly sets and had flown Glinda in The Wizard of Oz in February, 2006. This previous experience and training gave KH Players hope to be able to fly Mary in the production. But the process of flying Mary was not the same process that was used to fly Glinda.

“When we flew Glinda, we had her seated, so we could just put her on a bench and clip her in to fly her,” Greg Booth, technical director, said. “Mary can’t sit.”

According to Booth, the crew only had to raise and lower Glinda to and from the catwalk when flying. However, Mary had to move in all directions, which made her flight more expensive. The issue of budget for theatre is usually handled by KSD, but funds were tight this year because of budget cuts. Because of this, the #MakeMaryFly campaign was born. KH Players created the campaign in order to raise the $3,000 needed to pay a flying company. A link was put online so students who were part of the show could spread the word to friends and family about donating for the cause. With help and donations, they raised $3,166, so Booth was able to call in the company Vertigo to set up equipment and teach students the fundamentals of stage flying.

Although everyone in the show had a small part in the process, two crew members chose to physically fly Mary. One of these students was O’Brien, who said she was thrilled for the opportunity to fly someone across a stage unlike her normal job of opening and closing the curtains.

“Justin and I would switch off pulling her up and moving her left and right because it’s only a quarter of her weight,” O’Brien said. “However, with all of the friction from the ropes it was pretty heavy. We dropped her a few times, which meant we let go of the rope slightly and let it burn through our hands. So I did get a few blisters.”

O’Brien and Vacarro were not the only ones who were involved in the process. Actors also had to learn to clip and unclip the wires attached to Palombo’s harness after she had safely landed on the stage. While the crew worked by moving her and the actors clipped and unclipped her harness, Palombo had her own duties to follow on the other end of the line.

“When I was on the ground I had a certain point I was supposed to take off at and I had to make sure that the track that held the ropes was completely above me,” Palombo said. “Otherwise I’d swing into the light system.”

Palombo did swing into the lights once and got tangled up in the system. She was also dropped a few times and then caught right before she hit the ground. However despite the complications, Palombo said flying was an easy experience for her and she would fly again if given the opportunity.

“I’ve never had problems with heights before and I knew that I was in safe hands.”  Palombo said.

Everyone agreed flying Mary added an important layer to the production. Palombo mentioned how her flights made the show seem magical. Without the project #MakeMaryFly and the efforts of the crew, and cast of Mary Poppins, flying Mary would not have been possible.

“Mrs. Schnider, the director, said that it was one of the hardest shows she has ever done as an actor or as a director. I agree with that. I think that it is the hardest show I’ve ever done and it was my ninth show here,” O’Brien said. “However, I think that the payoff was great and that we did great, and I am so happy with the way it turned out.”