‘Fly’ at Ford’s Theatre: Special effects and tap dancing bring this history lesson to life

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With its energetic, all-male cast, dancing and multi-sensory special effects, Fly grabs your attention and holds it tight. This play also offers a creative and sensitive portrayal of historical events that kids will enjoy.

Fly tells the story of four Tuskegee Airmen as they prepare for and serve in World War II. The play’s dialogue is straightforward and humorous at times, but dancing gives Fly tempo and an additional layer of emotion. A hip-hop tap dancer weaves in and out of scenes and the main characters do frat-style stepping. Ricardo Khan, Fly’s co-author and director, explains why he included a tap dancer (known as the tap griot) in the play: “...because these guys were young and in the army, they had emotions they couldn’t display. And because they were black, they knew they had the burden/motivation of representation for the whole race.” Hence, Khan sought to express through tap what the airmen could not express through words. For example, when one character is furiously angry at his commanding officer, the tap griot’s feet explosively move.

My favorite part of the play is when one of the pilots is wounded in battle. Over the lonely sounds of the wind, an airman sings to his wounded friend in the other plane. We rarely see men, let alone African American men, depicted in such a compassionate light.  In the darkened theater, I saw at least one audience member cry during this scene....

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