Professor’s Unique Skills Make Characters Fly High
William Auld has a unique skill to pass on to students.
Backstage of the Weathervane Playhouse in Akron, crews are raising the bar on safety as they prepared for the opening of Peter Pan. Nobody knows the art of safety better than William Auld, Kent State University at Tuscarawas theatre professor. Auld is one of only a few dozen in the world certified in rigging theatres and arenas, and training others.
“When I was little, I would say that I wanted to run away and join the circus, and so when I grew up I did,” Auld laughs.
When he is not in the classroom, Auld travels around flying characters on wires – from witches to genies. He has worked in exotic places, from Panama to Paris and Mexico to Oslo.
His passion for flight started with martial arts entertainer Jackie Chan, and continued growing in the Army when he jumped out of airplanes with the U.S. Army Airborne Corps, Special Operations: Airborne battalion.
From there, Auld developed another passion: mentoring.
“We can bring students out and give them real-world experience,” Auld says. “At the same time, I can kind of pass on a little of what I do to the next generation, and it’s a cool way to earn a living.”
For Kent State student Alexandria Roberts, it is a cool way to learn. “This is an experience that not too many get to have,” she says. “I was really blessed to get this opportunity and experience all this.”
Along with his sense of humor, Auld uses the laws of physics to teach his students, and the star of Peter Pan Gracie Thanasiu, how to fly using more than happy thoughts and fairy dust.
For Auld, it is a magical career filled with unique skill, adventure and opportunity to share with others his commitment to the highest safety standards in the industry. “You look back on your life and you don’t ever want it to be dismissible, and so now you can point to certain things and say, ‘I did that. I affected that.’ And that’s kind of cool,” Auld smiles.