Flying effects add 'fun' to 'Peter Pan'
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Sunday, March 03, 2013
3/03/13 at 5:41 AM
Related story: Rigby returns to famous role as 'Peter Pan'
Paul Rubin has been sending actors and actresses into the air for nearly a quarter century.
He is known - informally and officially - as "The Fly Guy," which is the name of the company he founded that choreographs and operates flying effects in stage productions such as "Wicked," "The Little Mermaid" and "Spiderman Live."
But the production Rubin is most associated with is "Peter Pan," in particular the version that stars Cathy Rigby.
"I did my first flying choreography for Cathy in 1989, when I was still working with Flying by Foy," Rubin said. "And I've been working with her on tour since 1997.
"That's why, when she approached me about doing this new tour, I told her we had to do something new, or I didn't want to do it," he said. "We'd been doing the same basic effects for 15 years. So Cathy said, 'OK, show me what you've got.' "
What Rubin devised is a new rigging system that uses a double-wired harness.
"It allows her to get her body in all kinds of different positions," he said. "She can dive and swoop and twist and spin in ways that no other Peter Pan has ever been able to do on stage.
"And that makes it more fun - for the audience, and for Cathy and me and my associate, Jimmy, who works the rig with me."
In the past, the effect used a single wire set-up, which attached to a harness in between the actress' shoulder blades.
"It meant that she was always upright and facing the audience," Rubin said. "Now, the new harness is attached to her hips. Now she can do things like a layout - think of Superman flying - or flip and hang upside down, or spin much faster."
While the technology to create the illusion is not new, what Rigby does when strapped into it is.
"What is so great about working with Cathy Rigby is there is nothing I can ask of her that she can't accomplish," Rubin said. "With her expertise and ability, we're able to really push the envelope and do things that most normal performers would never dream of attempting.
"Say I was to have Cathy fly out over the audience and then land on the railing of a balcony at the back of the stage," he said. "She's able to do it - even if we haven't really rehearsed it. It's truly a collaborative thing - Jimmy is controlling the up and down, I'm controlling the back and forth, and Cathy is the one who completes it. It's like a pas de trois - and it requires total trust."
Rubin was speaking from Tokyo, Japan, where he was working on the flying effects for a production of Disney's "The Little Mermaid," creating the illusion of characters moving underwater.
It's a large production that will have as many as 13 performers flying in the course of the show. But to Rubin, the most challenging work he does is with Rigby on "Peter Pan."
"That's because it's a completely manual system," he said. "The Disney show is run by computers, so it's the same every night. In 'Peter Pan,' we have three people working together to do something perfect every time."
Original Print Headline: Flying system adds more 'fun' to 'Peter Pan'
James D. Watts Jr 918-581-8478
"When (Cathy Rigby) approached me about doing this new tour, I told her we had to do something new, or I didn't want to do it. We'd been doing the same basic effects for 15 years," says Paul Rubin of the flying scenes in "Peter Pan." What Rubin devised was a new rigging system that allows Rigby to swoop, twist and spin in ways no other Peter Pan has ever been able to do on stage. Courtesy