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Helmut Schmidt, Published March 03 2012

Davies High School students take to the air for Shakespeare tale

FARGO – It’s good to be fairy queen.

Just ask Anna Montgomery.

The Davies High School junior plays Titania, the queen of the fairies in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“You get to fly! You get to be a fairy!” she said Saturday after a 20-minute bout of flying about the stage.

What’s not to like about that?

While other students have enjoyed a long spring break, it’s been a week of flight training for Montgomery and the rest of the cast and crew – be they sprites or human counterweights. And the training goes on until the show goes on March 15.

Davies fine arts boosters raised about $10,000 to hire ZFX Flying Effects to come in with harnesses, cabling and a trainer to make defying gravity for Shakespeare’s comedy look graceful rather than a stage-cratering experience.

“We’ve been having a great time,” said Sandy Harned, the trainer from Louisville, Ky.-based ZFX.

Harned has trained the group in the choreography needed not just onstage but behind the scenes, as stagehands and a few beefier adults jump off ladders and set extensions or dance around each other while hauling on ropes.

The actors are moved by a pendulum system of pulleys and cables, she said. “It’s a physics lesson to use them,” Harned said.

Flat-screen monitors show stagehands whether their pulling translates into visual poetry or fairy failure.

Safety is assured with harnesses and aircraft cable that can hold 2,000 pounds, she said.

Technical Theater Director David Wilhelmi said the play will also feature a 150-gallon pond with a waterfall, a fog machine and moving lights.

“We’re pulling out every toy” in the school district’s theater inventory, he said. “It’s Shakespeare and fairies, so let’s do it!”

Sophomore Evan Ouderkirk spent 20 to 30 minutes in the rigging, swinging side to side and bouncing around the stage after buying the winning button in a play fundraiser.

With his fist extended, Ouderkirk looked like a cross between the Karate Kid and Peter Pan.

“It was really fun. I’d never done something like that before,” he said.

Matt Goldenberg, who has a non-flying part in the play, also got to soar, having sold the most buttons in fundraising.

“Whoa! This is awesome!” Matt yelled as he was hoisted aloft.

Alexys Hewitt plays Puck, a central figure in the comedy. The junior enjoys developing new theater skills “20 feet up in the air.

“It’s nothing like I’ve done,” Hewitt said of the soaring and somersaults she does. “All I have to do is control my momentum.”

Fortunately, controlling your enthusiasm is not required.

After all, if Montgomery could have her way, she’d make flight a permanent part of her repertoire.

“That would be cool. I could fly everywhere!” she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583