The story of "Flight" centers around three women — two of them actresses and aviators and one a documentary filmmaker — in 1913. The trio takes off to break the social bounds cast onto women and to defy the limits of their careers by endeavoring on a history-making flight from Paris to Moscow.
For Steven Pearson, creator and director of "Flight," the story has a weight that transcends a linear plotline.
“We wanted to draw attention to the whole idea of flight and all the different ramifications of that idea — of running away from something but also escaping to something in a positive sense,” Pearson says. “That was happening with a group of young women who have been essentially ignored in history.”
The characters in “Flight” are based on Pearson and scriptwriter Robyn Hunt's research into real female air exhibitionists who frequently doubled as actresses just after the turn of the 20th century.
Alice Guy-Blache — a French filmmaker who made 700 films but remains "virtually unknown," Pearson says — inspired the documentarian in the story.
To relay the work of these often-dismissed revolutionaries, a classic narrative approach would not suffice for Pearson. The gravity of the story needed more than what a linear three acts could provide. What happens onstage during "Flight" is the building of a plane.
At the beginning of the play, there is no plane. By the end, there is a plane.
“You cannot pretend to put a bolt to the other,” Pearson says. “That’s absolutely authentic to the moment. … The actual drama of it is fictional, but the actual activity of it is by and large entirely authentic and truly in the moment.”
This experimental core of building a plane and its metaphorical conclusion are further emphasized by the three-dimensional use of the stage. During parts of "Flight," actors are suspended in the air.
“All the people that we have talked to who are flyers say that one of the things that’s most amazing about it is the sense of freedom, to go in any direction and be unbound by gravity,” Pearson says. “You can’t completely get that experience being on rope, but when swinging around you can certainly get some sensation of it.”
These devices are meant to convey to the audience the sense of work that the women endeavored to complete. Pearson wants people watching the play to feel the labor of these women who were at odds with their times.
“We wanted people to recognize the real power and strength of what was happening around the turn of the century in around and Paris and the United States,” Pearson says. “The whole idea of flight and moving pictures was this incredibly potent thing that we take for granted now.
"We want people to understand some of the foundational work done by people who are flyers and people who designed airplanes but also (that) young women against incredible odds wanted that sense of control, freedom, and responsibility.”
If you go
"Flight," conceived and directed by Steven Pearson; written by Robyn Hunt.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Monday, April 22, through Monday, April 29; 3 p.m. Sunday, April 28.
WHERE: Center for Performance Experiment, 718 Devine St.
TICKETS: $10 at theatre.sc.edu or at the door.