Welcome to “I’ll Drink To That” Ruby’s conversations with the future leaders of Broadway and beyond! Showbiz is in good hands with these brilliant and inspiring professionals.
Ruby sits down for a drink with the fabulous Kenny Howard!
Whose career do you aspire to have?
I don’t mean to change the scope of the question, but I feel that there are many things to glean from so many professionals that I have worked with, but being a director/commercial producer is a such a strange combination that I find it hard to narrow it down to one. When it comes to producers I believe the wisdom of Richards/Frankel is invaluable, but I also think Davenport is leading a group of new young producers outside of the box to examine how we go about producing and that we can indeed learn from the past and improve on it for Broadway’s future. As for director’s, I have worked with Leigh Silverman now on three separate occasions and her energy, insight, and career choices are truly inspiring for me.
What’s one of your most embarrassing theater memories?
In my senior year of high school I was the lead in a play, a truly horrible play, called Dear Ruth. I was the male love interest, a soldier coming home from war or some such un-befitting thing for me to be doing, (if you know me this is when the laughter should begin). I was still not “out” to myself, let alone anyone else, and I had this kissing scene with the female lead. I kept bugging her to rehearse it and she told everyone that I had fallen for her and told everyone that not only wasn’t she interested but that I was a bad kisser. So rude and SO high school. But truthfully, to her I probably seemed like a bad kisser. I didn’t want to kiss her, but the show must go on, so I just wanted to practice it a lot because it was the most uncomfortable moment in the play for me. It was like kissing a female frog who would never turn into a prince…however that insight didn’t come for me till a few months later. 🙂
What’s one of your best theater memories?
In college I was set to direct You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown but our budget was slashed and they were going to cancel the production. Being a bit pushy, I called the publishing house (we didn’t have internet then) and asked for an address for the composer, Clark Gesner, so I could send him a letter, to which they complied. I wrote him a heartfelt letter about my longtime love affair with his musical and told him about our budget being cut and them wanting to cancel the production and replace it with Belle of Amherst! CAN YOU IMAGINE?!. I received a call a bit later and it was the publishing house say Gesner waived all his royalties. Shortly after that I received a handwritten letter from him thanking me for the various compliments (ok, I downright gushed, but it was all true. I still have that letter. I went on to direct it, and then we even toured it to different mental health and senior centers (which is another story entirely).
What book are you reading right now?
A Translation of The Travels of Marco Polo as I am going to the Philippines in January to direct a workshop of new musical loosely based on the book.
What book would you like to see made into a musical?
This is tough as I am quite the bookworm. A huge interest for me that many people do not know is Native American Literature, and there are some amazing stories that I believe could be excellent source material for a musical such as Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony or almost any Louise Erdrich. There is also a book of poetry entitle From Sand Creek by Simon J. Ortiz, based on a horrific event and it is one of the most powerful books of poetry I have ever read. Musical or play, I’d be happy with either. The oral history of native Americans has given birth to some of the most underrated poetic American writers in the country and for so many it is just completely ignored. Being part Cherokee has made me a little sensitive on the subject, and the older I get the more it seems to be something I am revisiting.
What is your current theatrical project?
As a producer with The Broadway Consortium, we still have Evita running, and for this season we are co-producing Cinderella, Matilda, and Pump Boys and Dinettes. As a director, in late January I go to Manilla to direct a workshop of a musical based on the travels of Marco Polo, then direct a reading of a new rock opera in NYC when I return
What is your prized theater possession?
I have years of theater “possessions” and I have many favorites, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say my Tony Award for Porgy & Bess.
Where do you keep your playbills?
Everywhere. I try to keep them in ziplock bags, but when its the height of the season there isn’t 5 steps in any direction or shelf or crevice where you won’t find one, or three. But eventually they go in the zip lock bags or the trash.