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Flight Lessons

River Bend Students Sore Through Play

River Bend Middle School student Matthew Lasik prepared for his final fight scene by lining a leather harness tightly wrapped around his legs and stomach with backpack straps.

Lasik, who plays the lead role in the school’s production of "Peter Pan," is one of six students who fly across the stage during the middle-school production.

"This flying thing is tough," he said, as he pulled on his Kelly green leotard and brown leather harness.

Within a few minutes, Martha Lynch, the director of the play, called Lasik to center stage for a fight scene.

Lasik’s mother, Nancy Lasik, hoisted her son toward the ceiling. There, he met Joey Garcia.

It took Garcia, who plays Captain Hook, several days to master the art of flying, he said.

"It’s a lot harder than it looks. You have to arch your back, stick out your leg. If you just hang there, you start to spin."

LYNCH CALLED Flying by Foy, a New York-based company that specializes in performer flying, to help the students earn their wings.

"You can’t do 'Peter Pan' if you don’t fly," Lynch said.

Lynch, who has been directing plays in Loudoun County for more than 30 years, worked with the company when she directed "Peter Pan" at J.L. Simpson Middle School in Leesburg 15 years ago.

Peter Foy, who started his company in 1950, flew Mary Martin across Broadway in the 1954 production of "Peter Pan." His company continues to fly all Broadway performances of the play, as well as other Broadway touring shows across the country.

"We just called him again," she laughed.

Flying by Foy worked with Lynch, the students and their parents for three days, beginning Saturday, March 10. First, they rigged the school’s auditorium with ropes and tracks. The next day, they taught the parents of students who fly in the play how to hoist them up to the ceiling and maneuver the rope-and-pulley system and taught the students their choreography. On day three, the trainers worked with entire cast to make sure the flying scenes ran smoothly. The parents take their cues to lift their children, from the lines in the play. For example, when seventh grader Cari Lutkins, who plays Michael Darling, says "Christmas," her mother hoists her in the air.

Kendall Wise, who plays Wendy Darling, said she was able to pick up on flying through the air, but she collected some bumps and bruises along the way.

"Sometimes we knock in to the set or to each other," she said. "But we haven’t had any serious injuries."

The actress rubbed her shoulder muscles after the four-hour dress rehearsal Thursday night. After a few minutes in the air, she said, the harness digs into the skin.

"I’m not going to complain too much," Wise said. "It’s every kids' dream to fly."

THE AUDITORIUM was packed with more than 130 students for the dress rehearsal Thursday night.

Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders dressed in brightly colored feathers, black and white striped socks, ripped T-shirts and crisp bandannas raced from the school’s cafeteria to the stage.

Lutkins raced to find her mother behind the curtain.

Lutkins mother attached a long rope to a harness through a whole in the back of the neck of her red-and-green-plaid pajamas.

"We wouldn’t be able to do this without our parents," she said. "These plays get the whole school involved."

BENNETT P. LACY, the school’s principal, strummed his guitar in the orchestra pit Thursday night.

Lacy, a former Loudoun County music teacher, has been involved in all five of the school’s music productions.

"It’s fun for me too," he said.

When Lacy opened River Bend Middle School in 2002, he wanted to bring something special to the Sterling community. So, he brought Lynch, he said.

Lacy met Lynch at J. L. Simpson Middle School in Leesburg, where he worked as an assistant principal. Lynch worked on school plays there.

"I’m not sure how it originated, but she went with us," Lacy said. "I wanted to make a big splash and she agreed to help."

The five-year-old school has put on five musical productions, all under Lynch’s direction, including Bye Bye Birdie, Hello Dolly and 42nd Street.

"I get so much enjoyment out of watching the children grow from year to year," Lynch said. "It’s not so much the theater part, but the things they learn about themselves, that keep me coming back."