FIVE QUESTIONS FOR Paul Rubin, Aerial Designer

“I love working on original productions because that situation allows me to be most creative. I start developing my ideas as soon as I read the script and hear the director's concepts.“

  1. Your work as an aerial designer includes two new Broadway shows, Curtains and The Pirate Queen, as well as Wicked and a host of national tours. What's the biggest challenge in your role?

    The biggest challenge in my role is creating aerial sequences that are original, exciting, and safe. I need to take the dream of the director and make it a reality. In some instances, I also try to expand upon the initial ideas. In The Pirate Queen, there is a storm sequence where someone must cut down the sail to prevent the ship from capsizing. The original concept was to see the silhouette of a person behind the sail climb up a rope to the spar, cut the sail, and slide down. I built on this idea, and now we see the struggle. A pirate swings on stage with a rope ladder, climbs up to the spar, traverses across, cuts and releases the sail, grabs another rope, and slides down to the stage.

  2. How did you get into this area of production?

    After my aunt gave me a magic kit for my eighth birthday, I realized that I really enjoyed illusions and special effects. While majoring in theatre at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, I got a job with Flying By Foy, a company that specialized in theatrical flying. The owner of the company, Peter Foy, revolutionized the flying industry. Peter was my mentor, and I absorbed as much information and technique from him as possible before venturing out on my own.

  3. What idea did you have that looked good on paper but not in reality?

    The most recent idea that looked good on paper but didn't transfer well on stage was for The Pirate Queen. There is a moment in a sea battle where Grania (Stephanie J. Block) gets hit in the head and starts to hallucinate. During this time, two pirates (one English and one Irish) fly in and fight over her head, à la The Matrix. The concept sounded great, but when it got on stage, it just didn't look right.

  4. What has been the proudest moment in your career?

    I would have to say choreographing and personally flying Cathy Rigby in Peter Pan. It was my first Broadway show. It reminded me of what my father once said to me while taking me to a Broadway show: “One day, you'll be here.” It was also a feeling of coming full-circle; Peter Foy worked on the first Broadway musical of Peter Pan, and now I was working on the most recent Broadway production of Peter Pan.

  5. What inspires you in your creative goals?

    I love working on original productions because that situation allows me to be most creative. I start developing my ideas as soon as I read the script and hear the director's concepts. For some productions, we will rent a large studio to workshop the flying. This is incredibly beneficial because we can figure out a lot of details and really bring ideas to the next level, especially when you are not holding up the entire rehearsal process. Before we shot the DVD for Peter Pan, I was able to use the stage to practice some new flights. We worked some sequences with a two-wire harness that allowed Cathy Rigby to flip, twist, and spin in ways Peter Pan never did on stage.

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