blog entry by Taryn Darr (Ensemble, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat)
Several of the Joseph cast members had the incredible opportunity to take a flying trapeze class with SANCA, the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts, located in Georgetown, September 19th.
This lucky chance was provided by Kristina Wicke, Company Manager for The 5th Avenue Theatre. The role of company manager keeps Wicke busy and bustling about the theatre, tending to the needs of the local and out-of-town cast members. (We are especially happy to see her on Thursdays, when she hands out paychecks.)
Wicke, the circus girl at heart, has been President of the Board at SANCA for 4 years. The non-profit organization is “dedicated to improving the mental and physical health of children of all ages by engaging them in the joyous creativity of acrobatics and circus arts.” What does her involvement with SANCA bring to Wicke?
“Sheer joy!” she said.
We would soon come to agree with her completely that day.
After checking in and signing the appropriate “If You Die Here It’s Not Our Fault” waivers, we headed over to the big tent for a warm up and overview of what our first flight 23 feet in the air would look like.
We were fitted with safety harnesses and taught the basic mechanics of take-off. The most important thing we gathered from this was to listen to our instructors and do what they say! A running order was then assigned and we were good to go.
Most of us were anxiously waiting our turn - me included. Trying to distract myself from what I was about to do by taking pictures, I snapped this one of Dane Stokinger, right after someone offered him a stick of gum and he quipped, "Will the gum make me less nervous?"
Castmate Shanna Palmer was up first for the two-handed take-off straight swing—grabbing the bar with both hands and then hanging straight with toes pointed. (Palmer had visited SANCA once before and later in the day we enjoyed watching her do an impressive upside-down split, as well as a few exciting attempts at a mid-air catch with one of the professional instructors.)
Watching the first few cast members have a go at it, I was getting excited for my turn. Aside from the part about being 23 feet in the air, I had a feeling I would love this. My nervousness wasn’t a factor until I saw Dan C. Levine, who was right before me on the roster.
Yeah…okay, NOW I was nervous.
(Levine made it through that first swing, just so you know. One more video of Levine I’ll share below. We were all so proud of him and what he accomplished that day!)
Finally, I was up. I hooked the carabiner to my safety harness and began the climb up the ladder, which for me turned out to be the scariest part. At the top, the instructors re-hooked me to more safety ropes, chalk was applied to my hands and the bar was brought up to grab hold. One thing is for sure, I did NOT expect for the bar to be SO heavy—a great deal of strength is necessary in your hands and fingers.
“Ready!” calls out the instructor.
(Bend your knees, bend your knees, bend your knees)
My first flight was such a rush! I yelped out loud and I’ll never forget it. Falling into that net is just as fun as it looks, too. There’s really no way to explain just how exhilarating flying on a trapeze is, but luckily Wicke captured this moment on video right after my first flight, which pretty much sums it up.
Everyone did a fantastic job that first round. Some flew with truly the greatest of ease. Others overcame some huge fears. Mo Brady made a good point that the challenges we faced were not what we expected. Like holding on! People who are already performers and dancers are fun to watch on trapeze. Marc de la Cruz and choreographer Jayme McDaniel, for example, had perfectly pointed toes and looked like naturals!
Observers are not allowed to cheer until the flyer is in the net, so as not to distract them from listening to those important commands being shouted out.
However quiet it was during one’s flight, there was such a wonderful sense of support in that tent. With every drop into the net, the eruption of applause rang out.
The sense of accomplishment in just those first 30 or so minutes was astonishing. We did it! Before heading back up for a second time, we met in the warm-up area to learn our upcoming second trick.
“And now, you will be doing a one-handed take-off, knee-hang with a back flip.”
(Hm? I’m sorry, WHAT did she just say?!?!)
The look on cast members’ faces was priceless. Apparently, this is the second thing that EVERYONE learns, even the little kids. And so, following our instruction on this next ridiculous stunt, we were ready to head up again.
We have some very tall men in the Joseph cast that faced some different challenges on this one. Stokinger, a wee 6’3”, said “There was something about being okay relinquishing control to the woman holding your harness. You really had to trust her. Granted, this woman was also about the size of my thigh.”
Troy Wageman, who is 6’4”, was also amazing to watch getting those fabulous long legs up over the bar! It was nothing short of comical to watch this tiny female instructor on the other end of Wageman and Stokinger’s safety rope being lifted off the ground a bit each time they took off.
My second flight was by far the most unexpected fun I’ve ever had. As it turns out, the trick sounded much worse than actually doing it. What a blast!
As promised, here is Levine’s second stunt. He told me the other day he doesn’t remember much of it, and that watching this video brings the butterflies back to his stomach. Way to go, Daniel!
The two hours went by so quickly. What an amazing energy booster for us all. No pun intended but I was high for the rest of the evening. Thanks again to SANCA and Kristina Wicke. Now, just a thought, do you think we could convince our director to incorporate a trapeze act into the show? No??