February 12, 2010
In the Dec. 21, 1991 edition of The Milford Daily News, staff writer Stanley Jones wrote:
"Rob Ruggiero. Remember the name. You may see it shining illustriously about the title on a Broadway marquee within a few years."
Stanley Jones, how right you were.
Rob Ruggiero '83, the first-ever graduate of Stonehill's Theatre Arts program, is making his Broadway debut directing "Looped" on February 19th.
The new comedy is the story of Tallulah Bankhead (1902-68) an outrageous actress known for her partying and quotable quotes ("Cocaine isn't addictive. I should know; I've been doing it for years.")
In "Looped," she's played by Valerie Harper, who also played Rhoda on the "Mary Tyler Moore Show," and starred in her own CBS spin-off "Rhoda."
"Looped" may be Ruggiero's Broadway debut, but his work has been seen in London, Los Angeles, and everywhere in between, winning awards left and right. He's the only director to have received four Kevin Kline Awards: two for best director of a play and two for best director of musical.
He's also received four Connecticut Critic Circle Awards and Chicago's Joseph Jefferson Awards for directing.
But the real story of Rob Ruggiero starts some 30 years ago, with Professor Patricia Sankus, in the Hemingway Theatre at Stonehill College...
"A transfer student, I arrived my sophomore year (1980) with very limited experience in theater-basically doing musicals," said Ruggiero, now 48 and living in Hartford, Conn.
"When I arrived on campus, I heard about Patricia Sankus, then newly appointed as director of the Theater Arts department," he said. "I went to the first meeting at the beginning of that year and never left. My connection with Pat Sankus ended up being a huge turning-point in my decision to pursue theater and directing.
Pat saw something in me that I didn't even see myself," Ruggiero said.
"She pushed me to grow in many ways I never even thought I was capable of. Patricia Sankus is the first in line of a very small group of critical and treasured mentors that helped me believe in myself and the artist they saw in me. It was that belief that gave me the courage to trust I could have a life in the theater."
Sankus said, "Teachers often have a ‘feel' for the potential of good students-it's highly subjective and not easily explained. Rob was an eager, energetic student. He gave himself completely to whatever he was doing.
"I was his mentor when he was an undergraduate until he went to graduate school and began to find his ‘voice,'" Sankus said.
"Rob is an example of what a student in the performing arts- even in a small program like ours- can accomplish with talent, perseverance and dedication.
"In the early 1980s, Stonehill's Theatre Arts program was in its infancy, but Ruggiero said "it ended up working to my advantage because I was able to gain experience in all aspects of producing theater- costume design, lighting design, set design, acting, as well as connecting with the artist in myself.
"I'm very proud of my roots at Stonehill and how my work with Pat Sankus and the Theater Arts department inspired me to pursue this career in directing. I hope any success I have achieved will inspire the College to believe that although they are an incredibly successful liberal arts institution, great artists can emerge from a small program like this. I hope this event in my life will encourage Stonehill to look more closely at what the theater program can offer to its students."
The Milford native earned his Master's at Rutgers University, and has gone on to direct dozens and dozens of plays and musicals.
In 2005, he conceived and directed the highly popular "Ella," a musical play about Ella Fitzgerald, which continues to play major regional theaters around the country with a national tour planned in the coming year.
In 2006, he conceived and directed an original musical revue entitled "Make me a Song." New York Times theater critic Anita Gates called it "really good, with long stretches of brilliance." The production opened off-Broadway in 2007 and a cast recording was released in 2008.
In December, Ruggiero directed "Romeo and Juliet" at Theaterworks. One critic called it "notable for several reasons one of which is the unmistakable strong and creative direction by the multi-award-winning Rob Ruggiero."
Ruggiero directed the world premiere of "Looped" at Pasadena Playhouse; subsequent productions played in West Palm Beach and Washington D.C.
Ruggiero can't pinpoint just one of his plays as his favorite.
"Oh god! I have dozens. Probably well over 100," he said. "You're kind of asking me to choose between my children. But I'd have to include... ‘The Laramie Project,' 'Take Me Out,' a recent revival of 'Camelot,' and obviously ‘Looped.'"
"Naturally this is a very exciting time for me. I think it goes without saying that having a play on Broadway is a dream come true. I hope that many of my fellow Stonehill alumni will be able to get to see the show."
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