They can fly! 'Peter Pan' cast rehearses in harnesses

Cary Ashby • Mar 12, 2018 at 2:45 AM

Norwalk High School senior Annie Hiler makes flying in a harness look easy.

The 18-year-old daughter of Dirk and Lisa said she assumes her dance experience has a lot to do with it. She plays Tinkerbell in “Peter Pan,” which will be performed March 15 through 18 at the Ernsthausen Performing Arts Center. Tickets are available at http://www.norwalktruckers.net/NHSMusical2018-PeterPan.aspx.

“The technique of being graceful makes it easier,” said Hiler, who has studied ballet since she was 3 years old.

While she also has performed contemporary dance, “acro” (better known as acrobatics) and jazz, her favorite genre is ballet.

“I love the techniques that go with it and it’s so traditional,” she said.

Hiler’s castmates have noticed how well Hiler is “flying.”

“Her motions are very natural,” said senior Logan Hurst, who plays Hook. “Everybody else has trouble staying open to the audience.”

There are six characters in “Peter Pan” who fly: Peter Pan (junior Anna Little), Hiler’s Tinkerbell, Jane (junior Anah Freeman) and the Darling children — Wendy (senior Roslyn Christian), John (senior Jordan Cotterill) and Michael (freshman Kaitlyn Wenzel). The cast first started using the flying harnesses March 1 and have been using them in rehearsals since.

“This was my first time ever,” Hiler said. “I was really excited. I got hooked up, they pulled and I was really scared. Once you get up there, it’s a lot of fun.”

Her dance experience also has helped her portray Tinkerbell, who doesn’t have any dialogue.

“It gives me a chance to create the character through dance movement,” she explained. “She doesn’t speak at all, so I’m constantly playing Charades.”

By playing Hook, Hurst sees the role as a way of making an impression in his last year at NHS and adding to his acting repertoire. The 17-year-old son of Greg and Amy plans on being involved in drama productions at Ashland University, where he will study integrated math education.

“I get to go out with a bang with my senior year. (Playing) Peter Pan was really not an option; he’s a tenor,” Hurst said, referring to the singing voice. 

“Seeing me in tights is probably not very pleasant,” he added with a laugh.

Hurst’s NHS acting roles have been varied. As a freshman he played Robertson Ay in “Mary Poppins,” the last time the Norwalk cast used flying harnesses. 

“He was a goof. He was the comic relief of the show,” Hurst said. “That wasn’t really hard for me; I just got on stage and went for it.”

As a sophomore, he portrayed his first villain, Jud Fry in “Oklahoma!” and last year, he was Horton the Elephant in “Seussical the Musical.”

As Jud Fry, Hurst said the character “is nasty all the time.”

“It was something I didn’t know I had in me,” the senior added. 

While Hurst finds it “fun playing a villain,” the naturally friendly teenager pretty much has taken a Method acting approach to portraying Hook.

“Some of the pirates would attest to when I’m in Hook mode, I’m not very pleasant. I really have to dig deep and I have to stay in it all rehearsal.”

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