April 14, 2018 — “Sometimes you have to Hulk out’ and grab the silks to pull yourself up,” Sally Brewer of Revelers Aerial Works said about climbing the green silk “vines” hanging on stage at the Florence Events Center.
She recommended instead that students mostly use their feet and legs in various wrapped positions to climb the silks and hold poses.
Brewer and her colleague Ashly Milliot have been working with Children’s Repertory of Oregon Workshops (CROW) since February to bring stunning choreographed aerial artistry to this weekend’s production of “Tarzan.”
The show opened on Thursday to two packed audiences as CROW entertained students from Siuslaw and Mapleton school districts, Reedsport Elementary School and homeschool students.
These free outreach shows are part of CROW’s campaign to give back to the community. In addition, CROW actors visited Spruce Point Assisted Living, Elderberry Square, Kiwanis Club of Florence, Florence Rotary Club and KCST/KCFM Coast Radio to bring a little bit of “Tarzan’s” “Two Worlds” to people.
A grant for specialty materials allowed CROW to contract with Revelers and buy other items specifically for “Tarzan.”
“The Miller Foundation grant was huge because it created the overall look of the show,” said CROW Artistic Director Melanie Heard. “The silks add so much.”
Heard contacted Brewer about both “Tarzan” and CROW’s Black and White Ball fundraiser in February.
“She was super receptive to coming and working with the CROW kids and just positive about this whole process from the very beginning,” Heard said.
It was Brewer’s idea to train Tarzan, played by Cameron Utz, on the silks.
Heard said other companies can spend upwards of $15,000 to hire a professional theater flying company for one show, and that can mean a bulky harness for Tarzan and other actors to wear.
“We had to be creative,” Heard said. “This way Cameron can be free and fun, and have that adrenaline swing when he comes on stage.”
That “adrenaline swing” is something that the 10 students who attended an aerial workshop learned on Thursday night. Revelers Aerial Works agreed to host the class on aerial basics, and let each CROW student fly on Tarzan’s swing. The students ranged from 8 to 16 years old, and each also has a role in “Tarzan.”
“It was the best thing I’ve ever done in my entire life,” said Haylee Cole. “I want to do it like a thousand times, and I want to do it every single day.”
The students talked over each other, saying that the class was both painful and incredibly exciting. They expressed interest in taking further classes, showed each other sores on their skin, cheered on whoever was up in the silks, and commiserated after a graceless fall.
“I feel like I’ve grown as a dancer,” Elyse Stewart said. “It helped technique wise, because you have to keep your feet pointed, you have to stay strong and you have to use all your core muscles. I thought it was really cool.”
Clover Holbrook, the youngest participant at only 8, impressed her castmates, the instructors and the family members in the audience. She said she was only “a little bit” afraid of the heights.
The girls added that they loved the “flippy-dos” and other spins that Brewer and Milliot trained them to do.
“It was terrifying, but so much fun,” Eryn Morgan said.
Besides the workshop, Brewer also taught Utz and Alizabeth Norton, who plays Jane in “Tarzan,” in special sessions at her studio space in Northwest Ninja Park in Springfield, Ore. In addition to running Revelers, she also teaches aerial workshops for adults and youth.
“We’re just so excited to work with the kids in this cast,” Brewer said. “They’re the
kindest group of kids and so respectful. They’ve been nothing but welcoming and wonderful to us. I’m having the best time ever hanging out with these cool kids and swinging like Tarzan.”
Milliot added that the kids in the workshop were “enthusiastic thrill seekers” as they volunteered to do spins and new and more moves.
“This is the beginning of more stuff like this for us,” Heard said. “We’re going to have to find more fun ways to do aerial silks out here, because the kids love it. It’s a good tool for them to have in their real-life toolkit.”
CROW’s presentation of Disney’s “Tarzan” opened Friday and continues today and Sunday at Florence Events Center, 715 Quince St. Tickets are $18 for adults and $10 for youth 12 and under. They are available at the Box Office, by calling 541-997-1994 or by visiting eventcenter.org.
For more information about CROW, visit crowkids.com.
For more information about Revelers, visit www.revelersaerialworks.com.
“I’m really grateful that they were able to be part of this production,” Heard said. “Their energy just adds so much.”