by Ting Chun Chang, dramaturg

“Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” written by the Sherman Brothers, is one of the famous song in Mary Poppins. The symbol of the kite was mentioned in the beginning on in the script when Bert sings :

A FATHER, A MOTHER, A DAUGHTER, A SON. THE THREADS OF THEIR LIVES ARE RAVELING UNDONE. SOMETHING IS NEEDED TO TWIST THEM AS TIGHT AS A STRING YOU MIGHT USE WHEN YOU’RE FLYING A KITE……

Designers’ Kite Idea

While we were exploring the idea of kite flying, scenic designer Michael Handley was able to share his personal story about the experience of flying kites with his family. He also discovered the cross symbol on the kite and was able to “mosaic” this idea into his design. Props designer Bradlee Hager then dug into some other research about how kites were designed in the early 20th century.

Flying a Kite 1910

This is the inspirational picture for Bradlee. Painted by Dame Laura Knight. Flying a Kite 1910. First Exhibited: London Riyal Academy 1910 No.712

In reality, people made many different kinds of kites; some are very long, some are very complicated. However, in the script, it is described simply as a “red kite.” Bradlee decided to create kites with the simplest design in order to not distract from the message of the show.

Kites In The Script

In the play, the first kite is shown by Michael Banks. He desires to fly kite with his father but is rejected. The “broken kite,” as described in the play, is like his broken heart, wanting to be loved by his father. After George Bank realizes the importance of the family, he takes a beautiful red kite and flies it with his son.

The power of this message is also shown in the “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” scene in the movie Saving Mr. Banks. Up to this point, P.L Travers has not been happy with the way Disney had been adapting her book into a film. In the scene, the Sherman Brothers sing the song for Travers in order to show her the revisions they had made to George Bank’s character. The song transforms Travers’ attitude about the project, giving us a clue into the importance of that character’s journey.

More About Kites

One thing I like about the idea of the kite is that it goes alone well with a religious belief of BYU, which is centered in Jesus Christ. Further, it is echoing the department’s educational mission: “To promote literacy, creativity, and spirituality by exploring their interrelatedness in the arts of theatre and media, in an effort to illuminate and confirm truth and the infinite potential of the human soul.”

I know it might be too religious at this moment, but as a Chinese Mormon dramaturg, I would like to share with you that the symbol of the string in the kite for me is the same thing described in the Book of Mormon: “And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another…… having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.” (Mosiah 18:21)

Fun Facts About Kites

  • Kites were originally invented in China and used in the military as early as the 2nd century BC. They were made out of silk and bamboo and designed to imitate birds, bats, and butterflies.
  • In 1752, Benjamin Franklin’s famous experiment involved flying a kite in a thunderstorm and proved that lightning is caused by electricity.
  • The golden age of kite flying was between the years 1860 and
  • 1910. During this period, kites were used for a variety of things such as photography, wireless communication, aeronautics, and meteorology.
  • Today, kites are flown all over the world in festivals and parades. To dream of the kite symbolizes the desire to live carefree, but in a controlled way as the kite is tethered to string, you should never let go completely.

Making your Own Kite

In the Mary Poppins’ program, we have created an opportunity for you to create your own kite for your family. If you need some help, follow the instructions in this video, featuring prop designer Bradlee Hager.

 Research Resources

  • https://tma.byu.edu/mission-statement/
  • http://www.damelauraknight.com/artwork/flying-a-kite-1910/
  • http://www.aerc.nhcue.edu.tw/4-0/teach93/s33/source-next-2.htm
  • http://www.hwjyw.com/zhwh/content/2011/06/16/18955.shtml

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