ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — For this weekend and next, theater company Artists Unlimited is presenting its take on “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” They are celebrating their 21st anniversary this year. You can find ticket information here.

Performance schedule:

  • Friday, Oct. 28 at 7:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 29 at 7:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, Oct. 30 at 2:00 p.m.
  • Friday, Nov. 4 at 7:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 5 at 2:00 (ASL interpreted) and 7:00 p.m.

Three key members of Artists Unlimited: Carl Wager, Jordan Smith — who is portraying Willy Wonka — and flying designer Paul Rubin, came to News 8 to discuss the show. Rubin is also a world-renowned flying designer, known for his work on Wicked. He is based in New York City, and volunteers his time to Artists Unlimited.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Carl, we’re going to start with you. Talk to us about what Artists Unlimited is.

CW: Artists Unlimited is a theater group that encompasses mostly special needs folks. It started about 20 — actually a little more than 20 years ago — when Ed Schram was in one of my shows that I directed at Athena. There, somebody singing away with one of our songs. And (Ed) goes, “he’s got a great voice, he should be in the show.” And the mother said, oh, “there’s nothing for people like him.” And that hit (Ed) in the heart. And so it took him a couple of years, he mortgaged part of his house to pull it off and started Artists Unlimited.

Paul, we don’t get “flying designer” as the title a whole lot here on these interview segments. So I wanted to ask you about that. What is your role in this production? And obviously, if there’s flying set pieces, this is shaping up to be a pretty extravagant show here.

PR: Well, actually, it’s not just set pieces. It’s people I fly people. My first show with artists unlimited was “Peter Pan,” and I flew a couple of the actors then that was probably 15 years ago, 14 years ago. And now we’re flying people and a “Wonka Vader.” So there’s fizzy lifting drinks and other secrets that we don’t want to really give away. But we try to bring the movie to life on stage.

That’s wonderful. And a big part of that movie, of course, as well as the role of Willy Wonka. Jordan is tackling this magnificent and this huge role. Talk to me about preparing for this. How do you get in the role of, and in the mindset of Willy Wonka.

JS: One page at a time. The script involves a lot of Willy Wonka speaking, so I just literally go one page, memorize that and go on to the next one. Start to think of okay, who says what right before me? And then what do they say right after me.

So I kind of know the tone of which I’m supposed to say the line. I’ve always loved with Gene Wilder way back in the 70s I loved it. So it’s like you know what? I want to do it justice. So I’m going to do the best I can with this role.