Contributed by Susan Monagan on 02/19/2009
Ithaca College brought a team of professional theatrical flyers to campus to teach technical theatre students how to fly student opera performers, resulting in stunning effects for 2009’s annual collaboration between Ithaca College Theatre and School of Music.
The production of two French operas, Pauline Viardot's Cendrillon and Maurice Ravel's L'Enfant et les sortilèges, opens at 8:00 p.m. on February 19, and will continues February 21, 25, and 27 with a matinee performance offered at 2:00 p.m. on February 22.
To teach both actors and crew how to fly, the ZFX company of Louisville, Kentucky, visited the college to install the equipment and host several workshops. Funding for ZFX’s visit was provided by the IC School of Humanities and Sciences' Educational Grant Initiative.
Student MK Bedosky '09, who is both the flight supervisor and assistant master carpenter for the show, says of instructor Jason Whicker, "Jason was a great teacher. He has a degree in musical theater and is very aware of movement and choreography." Learning to fly actors was a new experience for Bedosky who shed some light on what it takes to get people off the ground.
"It's all about weight and balance between you and the performer," she says, "to fly a performer offstage and land takes a ton of pull down on the rope." Backstage, the flight crew leap from various ladders and platforms, making the onstage action appear seamless.
The performers in L'Enfant et les sortilèges are learning, too. "It's quite a thrill to be doing something that I would have never dreamed I'd be doing as an opera singer!" says Amy Suznovich, the singer playing Le Rossignol. "Flying is very physical. I've had a lot of sore muscles from it, and it requires a large amount of teamwork, trust and balance."
Sara Mowery, another castmember, echoes Suznovich's thoughts, "As a performer it has been difficult to give up my control and trust the operators; however, they are fantastic and always keep me safe!" Safety, of course is a concern of the singers, but after they find their "wings," the focus turns to their performance: "We wear tight harnesses under our costumes, which changes the way we breathe to sing."
David Lefkowich returns to Ithaca to direct the two operas. Cendrillon (Cinderella) will be semistaged. Lefkowich says, "Stripping away the 'grand opera' aspects to the production, including costumes and scenery and orchestra, has allowed the performers to discover the essence of the piece and discover truth within a clichéd idea, without losing the integrity of the original story."
In contrast to Cendrillon, L'Enfant et les Sortilèges will be a full, grand opera production "... where we have pushed the design of this show to new heights, in a multitude of ways," says Lefkowich. In addition to flying, student performers and crew will participate in over a hundred costume changes.
All performances will be held in the Hoerner Theatre in Dillingham Center. Tickets range from $4.50 to $10.00 and can be purchased from the Ithaca College Theatre ticket office in Dillingham Center or by calling 607-274-3224. Tickets can also be purchased at the Ticket Center at Clinton House by calling 607-273-4497 or online at www.ithacaevents.com. Group discounts are available.