March 27, 2013

Ready, set, soar! Reporter flies like Peter Pan

Reporter puts her trust in fairy dust and a rigging that can hold 1,200 pounds for a flying lesson from Cathy Rigby (aka Peter Pan) on the Bass Hall stage.

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Who, at the end of the day, can say they've never dreamed of their body flying through the air like Superman, Wonder Woman or Peter Pan?

So when someone asks, "Do you want to get flying lessons from Cathy Rigby? And she'll even give you some fairy dust to sprinkle" -- how can you refuse?

I surely couldn't. Though I did have second, third and fourth thoughts. Along with being fairly graceless, I'm also neurotic and injury-prone. The most athletic thing I've done in the last three months is crawled under the bed to dig out the spare TV remote. And, at 46, I figured there were just some dreams that have passed me by.

But it seems fate, the ageless magic of Cathy Rigby and Peter Pan caught up with me.

Rigby, the 60-year-old former Olympic gymnast, is in Fort Worth for the Bass Hall tour stop of Peter Pan, which runs through Sunday.

She's been playing Peter Pan in one form or another since 1974 -- though her first theatrical production was in 1985. All her experience put me at ease, but before I got strapped into the harness, I had some questions. And by "questions," I mean stalling tactics.

To you this is nothing, but the first time you had to strap into a harness and fly, did you have any trepidation?

No, because I was so used to uneven bars, balance beam, flipping around with nothing -- no fairy dust at all. It was almost like a relief. And I had somebody else help me get up in the air, so it was so joyous and so fun. The thing that you have to get used to when you're on a wire is, you tend to float. And the next thing you know, you're facing the back wall. And you have nothing to push off of to make sure you're facing the audience at all times ... and then you're singing. But I loved flying from the time I started.

Have you ever done anything more extreme, like bungee jumping?

No, I don't want to bungee-jump. I don't want to jump out of an airplane. Isn't that strange? I like the movement, and roller coasters, but I don't need to be jerked like I'm at the end of a rubber band. That's not my idea of a good time.

Well, I'm a little freaked-out today.

You'll be great! That wire holds 1,200 pounds.

Good to know. I ...

Did you eat breakfast?

I skipped breakfast.

That was probably a good idea.

Will I be the first person to die on your watch, here at Bass Hall today?

Absolutely not. I will make sure of it. Our fairy dust is great. We only use the wire for insurance purposes. The fairy dust really does work. And if you can think lovely thoughts ...

I will try to think lovely thoughts, as I'm screaming my head off. Now what about nausea? What if I throw up on your head from so many feet above?

I will be a safe distance away. So, if you do, we have crew here that are getting paid a lot of money to be here right now. So it's up to them.

And when I'm up in the air, flying ... will I feel free and immortal?

No, you'll feel silly, and you'll wonder why you can't face the audience. But at the end of it, you'll go, "You know, I felt like a kid. I felt like a child."

A nauseated child.

A nauseated child. But you'll have somebody around to take care of you afterwards.

Finally, we all agreed: I could delay no longer. It was time to fly.

Her amiable flying crew -- lead flier Jimmy Little and assistant flier Aaron Gilman -- got me into the harness and strapped me in tight. Very tight. I instantly regretted wearing jeans instead of soft, stretchy workout pants, as suggested.

As they hooked the wire to my harness, Rigby's tips came at me fast and furious: Stand up straight. Shoulders back. Arch more. Here's some fairy dust. Sprinkle it behind you so you don't accidentally catch a mouthful of it. Pretend like you're swimming. Have fun!

With that, the guys shot me up into the air. I can't lie; my joy was hampered a bit by the harness, which cut into my thighs to the point that bruises formed just hours later (stupid jeans!).

Still, there I was, 30 feet in the air, swinging side to side across the Bass Hall stage, fake-swimming and slinging fairy dust like Tinker Bell on a bender. I wasn't nauseated; I never came close to tossing my cookies onto Cathy Rigby; and, most miraculously, I didn't care that I looked like a graceless loon. Because this mildly weary 46-year-old was transported, and, for a precious little while, I did feel like a kid again -- searching for the second star to the right.

I was flying.

Thanks, Cathy, and thank you, Peter Pan. Just as you never grow up, you reminded me today that some dreams should never die.

Twitter, @fwsthsvokos

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