Spotlight on Paul Rubenstein, and Tom JonesBy Laura & Mike Clark • Apr 3rd, 2008 • Category: Interviews
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Mike: This is the ShowBizRadio Spotlight. Today I am talking with Paul Rubenstein who is the director for Sterling Playmakers upcoming production of Tom Jones. Thank you for talking with me today, Paul.
Paul: You’re quite welcome.
Mike: I’m not familiar with Tom Jones. What is it about?
Paul: Tom Jones is about a young man by the same name. He goes off on several misadventures. Only to find that he is in fact where he needs to be in the end. It’s the classic boy meets girl, boy has problems getting together with girl. He goes though all these serious issues that come up. They split up for awhile and they get together again.
Mike: Is Tom Jones a drama or a comedy?
Paul: It is definitely a comedy. It’s based on the Henry Fielding novel by the same name. Although there is a lot left out from the book.
Mike: There always is.
Paul: Otherwise it would be about six hours longer than it is.
Mike: How long is it?
Paul: It will run probably about two hours.
Mike: Is it a large cast?
Paul: We have a cast of about 26 people.
Paul: I actually added some characters in. Taking a page from a very good friend of mine, Bob Smith, when we worked on Romeo and Juliet for Vpstart Crow a few years back. I added in some younger characters to show that, yes, this is a world with kids in it. There is something neat that is going to be happening. I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag. I want everyone to see what happens with it. And we’ll have some fun with it.
Mike: So tell me about the challenges of coordinating that many people?
Paul: Getting everybody together for rehearsals. We got a lot accomplished which is fine. We worked through the rough spots. It’s just a matter of making sure all the pieces fit together and we don’t have to do any wholesale blocking because it just doesn’t work that way.
Mike: Who is playing the title character of Tom Jones?
Paul: Morgan Sexton is playing Tom Jones. I’ve worked with him in several shows before. He has mostly done work on the technical side. For this show he is also our lighting designer. It has been a pleasure working with him and seeing him grow. I have known him for a few years now; ever since he was a senior at Fairfax High School my first year and where I teach now. He actually stage managed me in the production there of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was the first show that I did in Virginia.
Mike: How did you get involve with the Sterling Playmakers? You usually do things out in Manassas.
Paul: I usually do work out in Manassas, but I was looking on the website just to see what was out there and I happened to notice that they were looking for directors. I saw their season and thought this might be an opportunity for me. Originally the play was supposed to be Harvey, but the rights were pulled because a touring company might be coming through at some point. So we got together and asked what else we could do. Tom Jones was suggested. I had never heard of it before. I had to read the script to see if it was something I did want to do. After I read it I couldn’t envision not doing it.
Mike: Is Tom Jones different from Harvey? Isn’t Harvey more intellectual?
Paul: With Harvey I would have gone a much different route. With Tom Jones, I’m pulling out all the stops.
Mike: Is the humor in Tom Jones slapstick?
Paul: Quite a bit. We had a lot of physical comedy in the play. We even have a sword fight.
Mike: Is the cast mostly young or is it a wide range of ages?
Paul: We have a wide range. We have some people who are in the older range. I’m not going to naming ages because I still do have to work with them. I’m going to be fair and say that everybody is in a comfortable age. All the way down to seven and eight year olds.
Mike: Have the younger actors done shows before or is this their first time? Are they still learning?
Paul: Some of them have. Some of them are learning. But it is a joy to watch them discover themselves. I have one actor who is actually in my improv club at Fairfax High School which is where I work. He is handed so many things in a limited amount of time that he is on stage. As a matter of fact he added a role for himself at one of the rehearsals. Once again, I’m not going to ruin it for anybody, but it’s something that every director threatens to to make an actor who is a little bit wooden.
Mike: How did you get started in theater?
Paul: It all goes back to when I was about five or six years old. My parents had taken me to see Peter Pan on Broadway. We had gone with some friends of theirs and their children. We were all siting in the front row of the balcony. At the end of the performance when Peter Pan played by Sandy Duncan came flying out I nearly flew into the orchestra seats. We then waited at the stage door. When Sandy Duncan came out she saw lots of kids at the stage door (ha ha, you’re trapped.) She asked us as she was signing autographs, “Wouldn’t you rather be trick-or-treating?” To a kid we all said,”No.” I think that was what hooked me onto theater.
Mike: So what do you teach at Fairfax High School?
Paul: I teach 12th grade English. I’ve been doing that for a few years now. This is my fifth year at Fairfax. I also run the improv club. We perform and also compete in theater sports competitions. It really is starting to flourish. We are adding a freshman show for th first time this yer becaus w have a lot of freshmen involved. We are hoping to see if we can expand even more next year depending on how well things are receive this year.
Mike: Is the improv club like a speech club or a debating club?
Paul: It’s more along the lines of games like you see on Who’s Line is It Anyway? We do shows like that. At theater sports competitions you get games such as party quirks which is one of everybody’s favorites. One person goes out and everybody else is given quirks and the person who goes out has to guess what everybody’s quirk is or what they are. These are the kinds of things that we do. Mostly it’s fun, but the kids learn a lot. They learn how to express themselves.
The nice thing is that it gives kids that are generally they are stifled during the day an outlet. Because a lot of times of course, as you well know from going to school, you have to sit in a classroom. You have to sit there quietly. Raise your hand when you want to answer a question. I encourage a little more freedom. The improv club definitely allows for that. Yes, we do have some rules of course. We can’t break any of the school rules. We can’t say anything we wouldn’t want to say in front of our great grandparents. Especially in performances. The kids have a lot of fun and they are so inventive. It’s a pleasure to work with them.
Mike: Is there a separate theater program at the high school?
Paul: There is a separate theater program. There are actually two theater programs in Fairfax High School. One is a school basedone. There is also the Academy of Musical Theater Performance class. That is open to students throughout the county. I have seen the work for both of them. They both do really good work. I look forward to seeing those expand as well. Perhaps maybe in the future work all three together to see if we can come up with something even more incredible.
Mike: So what was your training in? Did you get a degree in drama or just in English?
Paul: I would say the drama came first. I went to Ohio University for my Bachelors degree. I got a BFA in theater arts with a directing emphasis. Went back to New York to see what I could do. And after three years decided that eating would probably be better. So I went back to school. Looking back on things I had an English minor so I decided to upgrade that to a major and take the courses that I need. It would be far easier to get an English job than a theater job. I was able in my first teaching position up in New York to run the theater program such as it was. We did one to two shows a year until I moved down to Virginia.
Mike: Do you prefer directing or being on stage?
Paul: It depends on the time of year I guess. I love directing. I love acting. I’ve actually done a lot more acting since I’ve come to Virginia than I guess I have the rest of my life. It’s funny because I kind of said well, acting, I’m good at it, but I’ll put that on the back burner because I wasn’t really getting the jobs. And now, all of a sudden, now that I’m down here it seems that the acting jobs are a lot easier to come by. There is certainly plenty of theater out here. I’ve enjoyed a lot of success in obtaining roles, some of which I know ShowBizRadio has come to see. I would say probably my biggest challenge was when I did Of Mice and Men a few years ago with Vpstart playing the title role of George. It was something I had never really done before. I thought I grew a lot from that.
Mike: Do you see yourself continuing directing and acting?
Paul: I actually just got cast in the NVTA One Act Festival. One of the Castaway’s one acts. I play a don. It’s an original piece. I don’t want to give away too much. That seems to be the theme for this particular interview. Let’s just say I’m playing a self absorbed judge of a competition.
Mike: You’re very active with Vpstart Crow in Manassas. What can you tell us about Vpstart Crow?
Paul: We are undergoing a bit of a rebuilding once again. I was named co-artisic director not too long go along with my friend Bob Smith. We are kind of helming things at the moment. He is actually directing the next show which will be going up in May. It will be two one-acts for children. One of them is Red vs. The Wolf which is a retelling of little Red Ridinghood except it’s from the wolf’s point of view. The other is Shakespeare’s Clowns which is an introduction to Shakespeare through the fools in his plays. Bob just had his read through this past Saturday. I know he is starting rehearsals at the end of the month. I’m looking forward to seeing how that progresses. The rest of the season we are going to be doing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in July. The Importance of Being Earnest in October. We are going back to A Christmas Carol for December. In February we are doing She Stoops To Conquer. In May we’re doing Othello and then finally to wrap the season we will be doing Tartuffe in July of 2009. I will probably be directing one of them I’m just don’t know which one yet.
Mike: Let us know how people can get ticket for Tom Jones and when it will be playing?
Paul: People can get tickets at www.sterlingplaymakers.com and order them on line. You can also get them at the door although I would hope to have the issue where you want to get them online. Ticket cost is $12 . It take place at Sterling Middle School. The show takes place April 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13. Fridays and Saturday nights at 8 and Sunday matinees at 2 pm.
Mike: Is Tom Jones appropriate for all ages?
Paul: I believe it is. What I did was I harkened back to the old Looney Tunes cartoons in which everybody could get something out of it. The adults will see the more adult humor and the kids will laugh at all the stuff that’s happening.
Mike: Well thank you very much for talking with me today, I appreciate it.
Paul: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
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Laura & Mike Clark started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.