After interviewing so many talented stage performers, Broadway Wiz is shining a spotlight on creators and innovators. They may not have their name in a playbill, but all of these people have found ways to share their love for Broadway through their artistry.
This week we are featuring Paul Aguirre, creator of Broadway Dolls & Guys which are personalized, one-of-a-kind crocheted dolls in the likeness of Broadway show characters. He also custom creates dolls commemorating special occasions (weddings, prize winning events). Each doll is approximately 13-16” tall and captures as much detail as possible in the amigurumi art pieces.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I am a New York native, born in Manhattan and raised in Rockland/Westchester just outside of the city. When I was in High School I started doing theatre and fell in love. Between school and multiple community theaters in the area, I would be involved with up to 15 productions a year. I was fortunate enough to have a very supportive mom who encouraged me to pursue theatre as a career, which led me to my first paying acting job; the national tour of The Who’s Tommy in 1996. Since then I have performed on several other national and international tours and regional theatres throughout the country. In 2001 I was doing a show in Virginia and our wardrobe supervisor, Marrietta Green, was crocheting what seemed to be a boa scarf. I thought it would be a great gift for my mom so I asked her if she could teach me how to crochet. I learned more techniques while on tour with My Fair Lady in 2002. I started making the boas, as well as stuffed animals and hats for gifts and even participated in Actor Crafts in 2005. Even though I would take breaks, I have been crocheting ever since.
Where did the idea for Broadway Dolls & Guys come from and how did you get the business started?
In 2016 I was doing an amazing production of Bye Bye Birdie at Goodspeed Musicals in Connecticut, and as one of the parents of Sweet Apple I had down time in the dressing room. I found a pattern on Etsy from @CraftyIsCool for an Alexander Hamilton doll to make during tech rehearsals. I loved the result, so I tried making Jefferson and Washington, then expanded to the Schuyler Sisters. After I got a hang of the patterns, I posted the work on social media. People started to ask about the dolls and how they could get one. One person in particular (Joey Katrinic) asked if I could make a doll for Cynthia Erivo to give to her as a birthday/closing gift for her brilliant work in The Color Purple. After seeing her reaction and peoples’ continued interest in the dolls, I decided to make it an official business, since it was something I could do in my free time and while working on a show.
What is your design process like and how do decide what to crochet?
The first step is research – I try to find as many photos of the subject from as many angles as possible. I break down the basic parts of the outfits (shirt, pants/dress, shoes, etc.) which all get crocheted, as well as any of the other details like hair. Then I look at the little details and try to really replicate what materials are used. For example, with Antoine L. Smith as Curly (Oklahoma), I wanted to use real leather for the chaps as gloves. With Ricky Ubeda as Mr. Mistoffelees (Cats), I had to made his jacket rigged with LEDs. Once the research is done, I create the doll and start looking at the details of the face; how wide the eyes are, ear position, eyebrows and smile. Once all of the research, crocheting, and details come together, I add a small bit of blush to give the dolls a little life and they’re complete.
Do you have a favorite crochet project?
I have quite a few, but some particular favorites have been Usnavi and Carla from In The Heights, Anna and Elsa from Frozen and Beverley Bass in Come From Away. Sometimes I’ll make a doll and when it’s done I wish I’d have made two so I could keep one for myself!
First Broadway show you ever saw or show that made a deep impact on you?
When I was in junior high school we took field trip to see A Chorus Line (original) which was when I fell in love with theatre. Not only theatre, but the ensemble. I loved that the show was about the dancers and not the leads and it taught me that it didn’t matter how many lines you have, you are part of the storytelling which is just as important.
What advice would you give those in the theatre community who may want to start their own Broadway themed business?
Do what you love and do it for yourself. Don’t get into the business end to just make money, you want to love what you create to the point where it won’t feel like it’s work to get an order done. Also do research and pay attention to detail, people will notice and appreciate quality work.
What has been the most rewarding part of your business so far?
Overcoming challenges and learning. When I started I was sure there would be dolls I couldn’t recreate because of the difficulty of the patterns involved, but I have gained so much more confidence and knowledge, that I can and will figure a new technique or creative solution to make it happen.
You’ve had the opportunity to share your work with many Broadway stars, what has been your favorite reaction?
Many of the dolls ordered are from the amazing fans that gift the dolls to that actors themselves and I’ve gotten to see their reactions through social media. I loved that one of the ladies in The Color Purple (Angela Birchett) would do Instagram stories with her doll backstage, but my favorite reaction was when Cynthia Erivo got her Celie doll – pure joy.
Do you have plans to expand Broadway Dolls & Guys, or do you have any new projects on the horizon?
Right now all the dolls are made to order, but we are getting ready for BroadwayCon creating some new dolls to display like Michael from Be More Chill and Haled from The Band’s Visit. I’m also working on a fun idea with the Side Show twins and having them magnetized so they can stay together or be separated.
Anything else you would like to add – fun facts, random story or interesting detail about yourself?
Something not many people know about me is that I’m color blind, so when choosing and matching colors I enlist the aid of my boyfriend, David Thorpe, who not only helps me match colors, but is also a brilliant artist and did our logo and helps with detail painting. We live in Connecticut with our two fur children, Nikki and Arya.