Peter Foy, the founder of Flying By Foy, who revolutionized stage flying with the development of the Inter-related Pendulum System, died February 17th in Las Vegas, NV, of natural causes. He was 79.
Foy was born on June 11, 1925 in London, England. As a child, he was fascinated by James M. Barrie's Peter Pan, a story and character that would profoundly alter the course of his life.
After the war and the completion of his military service, he went to work for Joseph Kirby, a move that eventually brought Foy to New York as the flying supervisor for a 1950 Broadway production of Peter Pan, starring Jean Arthur and Boris Karloff. He began to experiment with and refine the Kirby equipment, redesigning the Compound Drum and eventually linking two of the systems together at a single suspension point, which he called the Inter-related Pendulum. This innovation made possible the soaring aerial choreography that helped define Mary Martin's signature performance as Peter Pan for the 1954 Broadway musical, and for the live NBC telecast in 1956. Peter left Kirby to form Flying By Foy in 1957.
The creation of the Inter-related Pendulum ushered in an era of spectacular, highly controlled, free flight but required operators with a high degree of skill and a minimum 40' of ceiling height in order to create a natural-looking, effective pendulum swing. Foy solved the problem of flying actors in low height situations with the invention of the Floating Pulley in 1958. While this development was highly effective, the device was often visible to the audience.
His determination to preserve the magic of theatrical flight by concealing its apparatus from the audience's view led to the development of the patented Track on Track® system in 1962, which allows two operators to independently control lift and travel. Since then, Foy has improved upon the concept of Track on Track, most notably with the patented Inter-Reacting Compensator® system, developed for touring productions of the Ice Capades.
Throughout his lifetime, Foy applied his artistic vision and mechanical ingenuity to the challenge of safely flying performers in a variety of different and often difficult circumstances. His creation of the Multi-Point Balance Harness for the 1965 movie Fantastic Voyage set a standard still used today for flying actors on film. He pioneered the use of self-contained truss systems for touring shows, and also introduced the first self-contained radio-controlled flying system at the 1990 Flower Expo in Osaka, Japan.
Over the past half-century, he single-handedly revolutionized methods and techniques used in stage flying that had remained virtually unchanged for 2,000 years. Perhaps this is one reason the Health and Safety Codes Commission of the United States Institute of Theatre Technology presented Foy the 1990 International Entertainment Safety Award “for his singular, personal, and creative contributions to safeguarding human life during a period of 50 years in the entertainment industry and elevating the task of flying people with rigging to an art form.”
Flying By Foy has provided theatrical flying effects for thousands of stage productions, musicals, operas, ballets, rock concerts, film, and television shows worldwide. The company has flown three Broadway productions of Peter Pan (with Mary Martin in 1954, Sandy Duncan in 1979, and Cathy Rigby in 1990) and originated the flying for Superman, Angels in America, Tommy, Aida, and The Lion King, among others. Recent Broadway projects include Man of LaMancha and Dracula the Musical. Foy flying effects are also featured in two upcoming Broadway shows: Spamalot, the stage musical adaptation of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
He is survived by his wife, Barbara, son, daughter, and two grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: The Actors' Fund of America, 729 Seventh Avenue, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10019; 212-221-7300. www.actorsfund.org.