The son of a Conservative rabbi, Jonathan Ezra Rubin lived in northern New Jersey until he was 10, before moving to the Philadelphia area. He had terrible stage fright as a kid, but fell in love with theater in his sophomore year of high school, when he played Trotsky in Variations on the Death of Trotsky by David Ives. After that, he was hooked. He participated in as many shows as he could before graduating and continuing his studies at Goucher College. There, he learned about the technical aspects of putting a show together, from design to directing.
When he’s not running a tight ship as theater manager at the Silver Spring Black Box Theatre, he might be working on a new show for Flying V, where he serves as managing director, or teaching people how to fight on stage without hurting each other. An inquisitive guy, Rubin was kind enough to let us ask him some questions.
What it is about theater that speaks to you?
I would say it’s a multitude of different factors, one being that I love the ability to tell these stories and to reach so many people in so many different ways. I would say that it’s also a catharsis for me and for audiences that I like to help them attain. I just love this industry. It’s been the only thing that I’ve really felt truly at home doing. I’ve just kept wanting to push that forward, even through financial difficulty.
Flying V’s motto is “Be awesome,” and that’s a word people tend to throw around a lot. How is Flying V awesome; what does it add to the D.C. area’s theater scene?
We want to make theater that makes you want to go out and have an adventure, to live life more, to really push yourself to experience life. So for us, the idea of the awesome is really focusing on how do you make something that is an experience that you will cherish and remember and grow from.
In terms of how the company does it, I think it’s in our mission. We take theater that is born out of ideas that are a little bit bigger in scope. We call them “the modern mythologies of our lifetime,” so things like comic books, high fantasy, sci-fi, westerns, all of these tropes that are often thought of as either lowbrow or maybe not given the respect that they necessarily deserve in the modern culture.
Judaism was part of your life growing up. How would you describe your Jewish identity now?
I tend to not affiliate with a particular denomination these days. I was raised in a very observant Conservative family. My father is a Conservative rabbi. I still keep kosher, though both in terms of what it was doing for me religiously and in terms of the career path that I chose, I no longer keep Shabbat in the way that I did growing up. I’ve kind of focused in my religious connection to what is actually making me feel enriched and connected to my Judaism, because I do still feel very connected to my religion, just differently than when I was growing up.
What is the most fun part of your life?
When I look at Flying V, and I look back at where we came from, it just warms my heart because it’s clear how the hard work that we’ve put in, the long hours, the late nights, have paid off and continue to pay off and that there’s so much further that we can go. But that we have come so far in such a short amount of time is really just so wonderful to feel. Being granted the John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre by the Helen Hayes…it was nice to feel validated that way by our peers.
Aside from that, the fight choreography and stage combat that I do. I go to workshops all over the country. This past December and January, I went to Canada for the first time for an international stage combat workshop. It’s really my passion in the theater world, stage combat and fight choreography.
I often have said to people, “the thing that amazes me about stage combat and that I really love is that you are forced to trust someone immediately.” Within 10 seconds of meeting someone, you might be trusting them with your life, and so you become very close with those people very quickly.