Church soars as Circa’s Peter Pan

Lisa Depies
Brittany Church, right, as Peter Pan in Circa ‘21’s summer production of ‘Peter Pan’ battles Captain Hook, played by Tom Walljasper.

In the J.M. Barrie classic, Peter Pan dreams of never growing up. For Brittany Church, 20, Peter? Pan represents a different dream.

“‘Peter Pan’ has always been one of my favorite musicals and being in the show is a dream role of mine,” said Church, who stars in Circa ‘21’s summer production of “Peter Pan.”

Though she’s from? Kansas and now attends college in Tennessee, Church is no stranger to Geneseo.

Her parents, Mike and Susan (Schillinger)?Church are originally from the Geneseo area and her grandparents Joe and?Margo Schillinger still live in Geneseo.

Her grandmother Joyce Church lives in Moline and her grandfather and step-grandmother Dale and Pat Church live in Colona.

“My grandmother was reading the newspaper and saw an audition notice in the paper for ‘Peter Pan’ at Circa ‘21,” said Church. “I?thought if I could land the role it would be the perfect summer job.”

A musical theater major at Belmont? University, Church has been involved in theater productions since she was in middle school.

“My first professional job was last summer in Bardstown, Ky.,” said Church. She performed in “Stephen Foster - The Musical” and “Annie.”

“I didn’t have the lead role in either production, though I did play Annie’s understudy,” said Church. “Peter? Pan” is her first professional lead role.

“I auditioned Feb. 21. It was a Saturday, and we’d had a big snowstorm the night before.?I was worried I ?wasn’t going to be able to make it in,” said Church.

At the audition, she was asked to perform part of a song, learn a monologue and read lines with another actor.

“I felt really great about the audition,” said Church. “I knew I’d done the best that I could do.”

She learned that she’d received the role of “Peter?Pan” in late March.

Because she’s working in the Quad Cities this summer, Church has been living with her grandparents in? Geneseo.

“It’s been really great this summer to get to spend time with them,” she said. “With me living in Kansas and going to school in Nashville, I?don’t get to come back and see them all that often.”

The role of Peter?Pan is extra special for Church because it allows her to fly on stage.

“I like the flying.?I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot of fun,” she said.

For “Peter ?Pan,” Circa ‘21 officials worked with theatrical flying company ZFX, whose Broadway and touring credits include “Wicked,” “Fiddler on the Roof” “Seussical” and more.

“Flying on stage isn’t exactly as weightless as you’d think,” said Church. “All of your weight is on two straps around your legs. It’s not that comfortable, but you get use to it pretty quickly.

“Because of the way the harness fits and where it connects, you have a tendency to lean forward. I?always have to remember to sit up straight when in it,” she said. “The wire can also spin, so I have to try my best to be facing the audience the entire time.”

When she takes flight as Peter Pan for the first time, Church said it’s interesting to see the audience’s reaction. “Sometimes they clap, sometimes they just watch — it’s different with each audience.”

A long-time fan of the musical “Peter Pan,” Church describes it as “a tale of magic and fantasy and wonderful stuff.”

“It’s not just for kids, adults can enjoy it, too. Adults have a lot to worry about, and the show is a great way to remember we all have a little bit of ?Peter in us. We don’t always have to grow up all the way. We can be children at heart.”

As much as she enjoys performing, Church admits the show also is a test of endurance.

“It’s hard work to do the same thing over and over again each week.?It can really test your passion for something. Every day you work to make the show fresh and magical,” she said.

Working at Circa ‘21 does have its perks, though. “The staff there is absolutely great, and the other cast members are wonderful. Last year, my performances were all outdoors, so it’s great to be inside this year.”

As Peter Pan, Church also has opportunities to interact with children in the community.

“I really like kids, and meeting them makes me think on my feet because they ask some very interesting questions,” she said.

“Sometimes the little kids are afraid of anyone dressed in a costume, and it can be a little disheartening when they don’t want anything to do with me, but when they do approach it makes it all worthwhile,” she said.

When the show closes at the end of August, Church will return to Belmont University to start her junior year.

“Aug. 29 is our closing night, but the first day of classes is technically Aug. 26. I’ve already e-mailed my teachers and they understand about me missing the first day,” she said.

As a musical theater major, Church said her ultimate goal is to end up working on?Broadway. However, she added, “I will be happy if I’m just able to work and support myself.”

Along with “Peter? Pan”? Church lists “The 25th Annual Putnam County? Spelling Bee,” “Wicked” and “Les Miserables” as her favorite musicals. “I pretty much like all musicals. You should see my iPod, that’s almost all that’s on it,” she said.

Circa ‘21 is a dinner theater located in Rock Island. “Peter Pan” will be performed at the theater Wednesdays through Saturdays until Aug. 29. On Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and?Saturday evenings the show starts at 7:45 p.m. with Sunday performances starting at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday matinees are at 1:30 p.m.

Tickets are available at www.circa21.com or by phoning (309) 786-7733, ext. 2.

Brittany Church