Pillow Talking’s Interview with Director/Artistic Director of TheaterWorks Hartford’s ROB RUGGIERO

Someday Productions LLC and Pillow Talking are pleased to present the following interview with veteran Director ROB RUGGIERO



Director Rob Ruggiero has been the Producing Artistic Director of TheaterWorks since 2012 and part of the theater’s artistic leadership for 24 years. He has directed over 50 shows including Broadway, Off-Broadway, National Tours and Regional Theatre. He has worked with some of the biggest names in the business including Kathleen Turner, Richard Dreyfus and countless others. Somehow he made time in his unbelievably hectic schedule to chat with Pillow talking about directing, acting, past shows and his latest, Next To Normal. Get ready for an incredibly fascinating interview with this multi-talented man.

PT: We’re so thrilled to finally have the chance to sit down and talk to you. We’re being totally honest when we say that TheaterWorks is one of our favorite theatres. We completely love the choices you make and the use of the space.

RR: Thank you and it’s great to sit down with you, too. The work we do here we personally see as fun and meaningful and sometimes edgy, sometimes funny and all that. But like any piece of art, people respond to things sometimes more than the others.

PT: Yes. And we definitely respond to it as we believe your audience does, too.

RR: But the common denominator is that it is experiential in our space and I do think that everyone gets it – but some people don’t know how to express it and you guys get it and express it. It’s hard to feel like an observer in our space.

PT: Thank you and yes, we totally agree.

RR: There’s a real connection between the pieces of art.

PT: And the intimacy of the theatre has a lot to do with it.

RR: Yeah. It has everything to do with it.

PT: It almost feels like there’s some things that you shouldn’t be seeing. You feel like you’re a voyeur.

RR: Right! The furthest row away is eight rows and it wraps around a little bit. I think that’s why I’m really excited about Next to Normal because it’s big. It’s like six actors and six musicians and it’s a show that I saw in its original production years ago at like Second Stage before it moved to Broadway but it’s a show that’s always had scale.

PT: We’re so excited for it!

RR: The way it’s being done in a space like ours – I think it’s going to have something different. I hope it’ll be revelatory in some ways that connect to the audience.

PT: We’d missed this one in New York. Neither of us has ever actually seen it so we’re super excited to see it for the first time here. We know Rita Harvey [who has played Christine in The Phantom of the Opera and Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway] and she’s spoken a lot about it as she played the lead in a regional production.

RR: It’s contemporary. They say it’s a rock musical. It’s a contemporary score. It has some rock. It really has some folk. And it’s almost completely sung through. And there are like, little scenes. Little scenes here and there.

PT: Wow. (Stephanie) And I know it’s totally psychological.

RobRuggiero2RR: Yes. It’s about a family coping with a not so silent disease – a mental illness. The mother has kind of a profound bipolar disorder provoked by something that you find out on page 20. I’m going to show you a picture. This is the poster that we’re working on right now.

PT: Fabulous! (Stephanie) Wow. Look at the face – that says so much.

RR: This is the family. It speaks to you, right?

PT: Absolutely.

RR: It tells you that he’s loving [Rob points to the father] and she’s the sixteen-year-old daughter and how she’s dealing with everything [Rob points to the daughter]. There’s a connection there. And the fact that you can tell there’s a mother who’s sort of…

PT: Not even there. (Stephanie) It’s very evocative. (Wayne) I like it.

RRuggiero3RR: And provocative. I wanted to make sure because most of the time it’s eyes and stuff that say so much. It’s about her but it’s really about family.

PT: (Stephanie) And you can really see the dysfunction. (Wayne) All of this is so important – we see all of this through our backgrounds which may be different than that of other reviewers and critics. You may know that I have a background in theatre and film myself; and in addition to the works we’ve done, Stephanie also is a psychotherapist and journalist.

RR: Wow. So this play will be really interesting for you.

PT: (Stephanie) It’s why I’m super excited about it. In writing, psychology plays such an important part in considering what goes on in the character’s heads as well as the audience’s. But of course this production is steeped in psychology.

RR: I think you’ll really like it. I hope you’ll see it early on. It also might be interesting for you to have a conversation with someone like Christiane.

PT: Absolutely.

RobRuggiero4RR: She was Tony nominated for the revival of Ragtime. In the theater world, she’s got quite a pedigree and she’s beautiful and vulnerable. I thought that this role would be a good fit and a very different energy than Ragtime in a good way. I felt like the character, for me, needed to have a certain vulnerability. And so, she and David and J.D. are the more experienced of the cast and then we have two young actors, John and Maya – the two kids that you saw in the picture, they’re recent Boston Conservatory grads and this is her first gig. They were best friends. It’s cool and we didn’t know that. Nick just graduated from Carnegie Mellon School of Drama so there’s this really lovely balance of experience and cultivating new artists. And then, there are two other students who are understudying the kids.

PT: Incredible.

RR: And we have five local musicians. Most of them are, again, very experienced. One or two of them are Harvard Symphony musicians. One of them is a senior student who plays the violin. He’s very gifted. And the music director’s from Europe but he has a long time association with Wicked. He’s on tour with Wicked.

PT: (Stephanie) One of my favorite shows.

 RR: It’s a really exciting project. But what I love about it is it’s huge for us and we’ve been able to use it as also an opportunity to bring those different levels of artists together and we have sponsorships with some of them being healthcare institutions around here, so we’re going to have lots of interesting dialogue about mental health.

PT: (Wayne) Wow. (Stephanie) What a great way to raise awareness.

RR: It’s going to be a big community push.

Sexwstrangers1 - CopyPT: (Stephanie) One of the things that I personally have felt from the minute I walked into your space, was “Oh my God. This is going to be my favorite place ever.” And the first thing that we saw… (Wayne) She did! (Stephanie) (Laughs)…was Sex with Strangers and it was so fantastic. We really just love coming here. The pieces you choose are so powerful and there are so many important messages, even with things that are lighter like Midsummer [A Play with Songs] or…

RR: Christmas on the Rocks!

christmas-on-the-rocks-e1479064921829PT: (Wayne) Yes, Christmas on the Rocks which we totally loved! (Stephanie) There are so many layers to these things, really all of them. I think one of my questions really is how do you choose these works? I mean, Next to Normal is big and one people have heard of, but some of the other ones are less so.

RR: Well, it’s challenging. Right now, we’re in the middle of reading and looking at stuff for next season. Of course, ultimately, I feel like I’m a storyteller and we, as theater artists are storytellers, so I try to find stories that I feel are not necessarily stories just that I like. They are stories that are important and relevant to tell. Sometimes, even in the case of Sunset Baby, I had to connect with the characters after reading it a few times because it is edgier and it’s forceful and it’s not a world that I know well.

PT: Right.

SunsetbabyRR: It’s also not a world that makes people comfortable. I’d tried to read it a couple of times and at first I couldn’t connect with it so then I started passing it around the office and people started responding to it. One member of my staff really was an advocate for it and so, I said, “You know, I’m going to find my space. I’m not going to be distracted.” And so I sat down and I started reading it again. Once I got a certain part of the way in, I just clicked in to it and thought Is it a perfect play? No. Is it a really good play? Yes. Is it a really important voice? Yes. I think [Dominique Morisseau] has a really good emerging voice in an American theatre, but more importantly, it’s a world that our audience is not comfortable in and doesn’t really get to see all the time. And all those things added up and I thought, we have to do it. Overall, our audience was really receptive.

PT: It was captivating. Absolutely captivating.

RR: Interesting, right? And it’s a little bit assaultive in a right way.

PT: Yes, in the right way.

Sunsetbaby2RR: And then it gets really moving. And it was interesting to see their journey as artists because right at the end of the process, the director and the actors felt so honored to be doing the work and kind of fell in love with it. When their hearts started to come into it, maybe too much, I said to the director (not to the actors directly) “Don’t forget this world is hard. This is a world of people who’ve been told no.” Then the director went in and said “Yeah, because you can lose your way.” He went in and did all these little layers of work and it was so much more moving the harder they were, because when they did have a moment of openness, it was more painful that way.

PT: (Stephanie) Yes. Because these characters can’t show too much – if they do, then they have to close back up because that’s the only way they know how to cope.

RR: Exactly. It’s all fear-based.

PT: (Wayne) I think we both pointed out similar things, saw similar things. And I agree that while we may not understand that world, the themes and the dysfunction, the family stuff – we’ve all been through things.

RR: Yes, it’s universal.

PT: (Stephanie) And there really is so much to the problems we call “daddy issues” for daughters whose father is distant.

RR: It’s really a father-daughter play.

PT: (Wayne) Yes. (Stephanie) It transcends race…

 RR: Family…

PT: (Stephanie) …and culture…

RR: …and it’s about forgiveness.

PT: (Stephanie) And it’s about loving yourself.

RR: Yes, loving yourself. We tend to, as human beings, encounter an uncomfortable situation and right away be like “What did I do?” And often, with a friend or even a family member you realize when you’re on the other side of it, that it had nothing to do with you. It had everything to do with what they were going through.

PT: (Stephanie) Yes, we really do that often. And I think the other important piece was about prejudice and discrimination – it comes from a place of fear. This is something that I teach my psychology students. When we fear something, we avoid it. If we avoid it, we never learn about it and we never learn that maybe there is nothing to be afraid of, or maybe that person isn’t so different than me.

RR: Well put.

PT: (Stephanie) And it doesn’t matter what cultural group you’re talking about, whether it has to do with color or religion or sexual orientation – anything. I mean, there is so much stuff and the political arena right now. We fear it so we avoid it. If we avoid it, we hate on it and this is a show that allowed people to see that we are all human beings and we’re all dealing with our crap – much of it the same or similar.

 RR: It’s really well put that you understand that. That is why we did Sunset Baby.

PT: (Stephanie) That’s why we love your choices. And we find we love the same things – we have very similar mindsets. (Wayne) and the funny part is we don’t read each others’ reviews.

RR: You don’t?

PT: (Wayne) No. (Stephanie) Well, I edit everything. So that’s when I read his. Then he reads mine (or skims it!) when he posts them.

RR: You basically write separately.

 PT: (Stephanie) Yes, and then, he sends me his. But sometimes we end up using the exact same terms. (Wayne) Same verbatim. She’s accused me of plagiarism (laughs). (Stephanie) Well, no. This is actually funny, but we’ve stopped talking too much in the car afterward because sometimes I’ll use a phrase or offer an observation that I’ll want to put in my review but then he’ll put it in his review. He’ll say, “I thought I heard it somewhere” (laughs). We do talk about the broader themes of the plays overall. But there was something recently, I don’t know what performance, but we both started off the exact same way. And I said “This is going to look so stupid!” So we put a disclaimer there saying “We did not read each others’ reviews first!”

RR: That’s fun!

PT: (Wayne) Yeah. (Stephanie) But that’s us! We have this really symbiotic relationship when it comes to the creative, so we do think a lot alike. But my background in psychology and his background is legal, as an attorney, and also he’s a big movie buff so he’s always thinking in other forms of entertainment.

RR: But that’s why you write so well. That because you both have experience and you have a knowledge about the world.

PT: Usually, our first question in an interview is to tell us about how you got into all of this? Did you always know that the entertainment business and theater was for you?

RobRuggiero14RR: I didn’t always know but like every kid, was trying to find my way. I was always one of the kids who related to adults more. I didn’t quite fit in. I was the quieter kid. And then in high school, I was somewhat introverted and then I actually – this is really funny. I was actually into disco dancing when that was big – because I’m 55 — it goes back to the seventies. And so my high school was doing a musical in my senior year and they needed boy dancers. The person who I was working with in my dance company was choreographing the show. He said “Come in the show.” And it changed my world in terms of community and connection. Right then, I was on a theater kick.

Then I went to undergrad but I didn’t know what I wanted to do and of course, parents don’t want their kids to go into the arts. I was a Liberal Arts major finding my way, and then I decided for a semester to be a healthcare administration major. I mean, I could do some things, like I could play an instrument but I wasn’t fantastic at it. I could draw but I wasn’t going to be a great artist. Then I took acting. But when I was acting I knew that I wasn’t going to be a great actor – but I liked acting. I could dance, too, but wasn’t a great dancer. For my undergrad, I ultimately decided to do a self-constructed and directed study. It was this crazy title, The Study of Human Communication Processes in Social, Cultural, and Educational Context – that’s my undergrad degree.

PT: (Stephanie) That’s perfect for theater!

RR: Yeah. It combined theater, arts, psychology, sociology, and group dynamics. But what happened was at the end of my undergrad, I took a directing class. I was an actor. I did a couple of leads in undergrad. All of a sudden, the lightbulb went off. When you think about what I said, I could read music a little bit. I have a visual eye, I knew I can dance, I could act, but all of a sudden, I could take all of those wisps of talent and combine them!

PT: (Stephanie) And then you also had the psychological and communication pieces.

PT: Exactly. And then I thought back to when I was like 7 or 8 or 9 years old; I used to collect my cousins together and I would write little scripts and I would direct them and I would costume them. But I still fought it. And for a couple of years, I was what you would call the activity director at a really kind of alternative nursing home and then I bought a business and I was a picture-framer, I sold art, and I started my own theater company. I had about 5 or 6 years which was after undergrad and then, I just realized that all I really wanted to do was be in the theater so I applied and I got my Master’s in directing. And then, when I was 49, Stonehill [College] gave me an honorary doctorate.

PT: Fantastic! 

RR: Stonehill is in Easton, Mass. It’s like the sister college to Notre Dame. And then from there, from grad school, I continued to work with established directors and taught a little bit. What’s the date? My god, it’s the third.

PT: (Wayne) Today is the third.

RR: I think today marks the opening of my 24th anniversary of affiliation with TheaterWorks. This is the marker. There was a blizzard. I was interim for a while but January 1, 2013, I was at the helm.

PT: Incredible. So what was it like coming on into this space?

TheaterWorks is a non-profit, professional theater company located on Pearl Street in Hartford, Connecticut.

TheaterWorks is a non-profit, professional theater company located on Pearl Street in Hartford, Connecticut.

RR: I was interim for a year before I took the job. They called me back because my predecessor left and was having health issues and he was losing his focus and so, he decided it was time to step away and they called me back temporarily and here I am. My god. When I started here 24 years ago, Steve Campbell, the founder and my predecessor, studied acting in New York with Bill Espier. (He’s a famous Meisner director, teacher.) Bill was like “I have to introduce you to this guy in Harvard. You’re better than the directors he’s hiring there” so he connected us and I came and I was hired and I never quite left. Really, this theater is responsible for kind of launching my career. But when I came here, to give you perspective, 24 years ago, there were wooden risers, there was no lighting grid, there were plastic seats. We had about 1,500 to 1,700 subscribers. There was one guy who did the set design, the lighting design. The stage manager ran the café…

PT: Oh, my god!

RR: In the end, I brought a friend in from grad school to design the grid and design the lighting for free. Twenty-four years later, we have over 5,000 subscribers. We had an operating budget that at the time I started, I think it was about $750,000. Now, it’s almost $2.5M. We have this full time staff of 18 and a bunch of guest artists so we’ve grown a lot. We did the theater. We bought the building.

PT: Incredible! (Wayne) Because I have a mixed background – I also wanted to act and go into theater and writing, but I became a lawyer first and a lot of it was about the business end of things. How much of it then – (laughs) and this is a quote I want attributed to me, “That’s why they call it show business and not show art” How much is your job…

RR: As a producing artistic director?

PT: (Wayne) Yes, as a producing artistic director, involved with business and sponsors?

RR: That was my struggle when I was deciding whether to take it because I do have some business sense. I ran a business when I was in my early twenties as you know. But I function from an artistic perspective. A larger theater like Hartford Stage or Long Wharf, they have an artistic director and a managing director so that is divided. It’s really hard in a mid-sized theater. We’re no longer small. We’re kind of a mid-sized organization with a pretty impressive budget for a theater our size and subscriber base. It takes a lot of focus to fundraise and look at your fiscal responsibilities and your artistic responsibilities. And so, one of the first things that I did was hire a director of development which is Dina. We never had one.

And we’ve grown from there. But in the last twelve months, I now have a producing associate and an artistic associate. I put great people around me. But ultimately, it’s a lot of pressure and to answer your question, I spent probably more time worrying about the business aspect of it or at least as much time as the artistic. I’m trying to make sure that I keep that in balance.

That’s a real struggle and I think, I’ve mostly been successful at that because one could easily overtake the other. You could get so focused on the artistic and not having resources to support it or you can get so focused on physically being stable on those resources that you forget to make sure that the artistic product and brand stays there. But I think the theater really reflects our contemporary brand.

What’s tricky about an organization like this is it really isn’t large enough to sustain those two positions that really should have a producing artistic director so my struggle is how I balance that and remain artistically satisfied. The board is profoundly supportive of me because – knock wood – it’s been successful, so I get to go off a lot and do things as I want to do them because I have great people, great staff around me.

PT: That’s one of the things we were talking about in the car on the way here. Going off and doing other things. How does it work for you to go off and direct elsewhere?

RR: Well, you try to deal with critical things. The board knew that was part of the deal with me when I was hired and they trust me to balance. Of course, if there were problems or issues, then I would address them. But I stay in touch and we address what needs to happen before I leave, what can’t and what can wait. And I have enough people with enough responsibilities and whose opinions I trust around me to take care of those things so I’m lucky.

PT: (Stephanie) It’s about surrounding yourself with good people. (Wayne) I’m amazed how you can balance because we also wear a lot of hats. I’m a lawyer, I teach. She teaches at two schools. We have the blog, we create. (Stephanie) And we have a big family – seven kids between us!

 RR: You’re like the Brady Bunch!

RRuggiero6PT: (Wayne) Yes! So we know you did Broadway and would have loved to have seen both shows that you did because the one you did with Valerie Harper, Looped, was about Tallulah Bankhead and I’m a big Hitchcock fan. I said to Stephanie that I’ve got to tell you the story. I don’t know if it’s going to make the interview but it was that Hitchcock was a crazy, wild guy and he was directing Lifeboat with Tallulah Bankhead and they would go up a ladder to the water tank where they were filming and somebody was complaining because Tallulah never wore underwear. They went out to Hitch and they told him. And he reportedly as said, “Well, this is really a costume designer’s issue.” And then he goes, “On second thought, it may be hairdressing.”

RR: That’s a true story. (Laughs) As a kid growing up, I watched Rhoda, and like many people, wished that Rhoda was my best friend – and then I ended up meeting her. She has that kind of energy of Rhoda. Valerie’s not Rhoda but they’re very close. Their personalities are very close. Strong and funny and a great friend. That project was great. It’s challenging to produce some Broadway and you really need producers with a lot of money behind them. That show was so funny. People really loved it. It was mostly a comedy with a lot of heart. It was a very big theater – the theater was too big. It was huge for a little comedy. It was a big house about two balconies or whatever. She was funny in it and she was great. I’m the one when they discovered the brain cancer – I was in rehearsal with her and I’m the one who called her husband. We got an ambulance right away. We thought she was having a stroke. It was a very scary time and then we had to regroup the tour. I was at the hospital with her.

PT: (Wayne) I remember all of that.

 RR: She’s so strong.

 PT: Yes. So tell us what it was like working with Kathleen Turner.

 RR: Kathleen actually started here. That show, High, started here.

RobRuggiero7PT: (Stephanie) Wow! (Wayne) I saw her on Broadway in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

RR: Kathleen – she and Valerie couldn’t be more different temperamentally but they’re both forces of nature. Kathleen was the kind of person who would work, work, work – she would keep working and she would stay up all night working on the script. That’s why they’re both successful. They have strong work ethics and strong personalities. Kathleen – my favorite story about her is she’s tough. Kathleen‘s tough. I respect her for that greatly.

PT: (Stephanie) She has Rheumatoid Arthritis, correct?

RR: Yes, bad, crippling Arthritis.

PT: (Stephanie) I’m very familiar with it.

RR: She didn’t know me in working on this new play. I remember in rehearsal, I gave a couple of notes and she realized, this guy know what he’s talking about. I remember that moment when she looked at me like, “Okay. I’ll listen to you.” I think she actually said that.

PT: (Laughs) (Wayne) I used to study all the different schools of acting so when I worked with actors, I would know where they’re coming from. Do you find that coming out of a Meisner approach to acting influences your directing?

RR: I think it’s the director’s job to adjust to the actor. Some directors don’t feel that way. I try to figure out what will get the actor to respond and I try to adjust my language for different actors because ultimately, we want the same thing. I want to get them there. I want to get the show there. I don’t see what good it does to say, “You will do it this way.”

I do believe that acting is doing and I feel like when you see acting where there is feeling, it feels real. If I have an actor who focuses on letting emotion drive them, I will always try to delicately steer them towards what they’re doing because emotion comes as a byproduct of the action – that is more truthful to me. To me, if you see actors who are riding emotion and not driving the actions, it feels indulgent to me.

PT: So, as a director, how do you approach a project? What is a typical rehearsal like? How do you select the works you present?

RR: Those are great questions. First, in terms of picking a season, considering what is currently going on in the world these days, I feel like you have to find stories that have some connection to it all – I don’t necessarily mean an agenda though. We’re not a political theater in any way. But I do think it’s great if I plan a great story that has some diversity, multi-ethnicity, or something cultural in it.

PT: It doesn’t have to be literal translation, you’re saying.

RR: Right. Not necessarily a story directly about what is going on but something that reflects the conflicts. It is helpful, I think, also so that people can have dialogue.

RobRuggiero8When I work on a play or a musical for the most part, I listen to it and read it and fantasize. In a play like Next to Normal when there are so many moving parts, you do have to plan it but I often like to start rehearsal with an empty script. You know there are a lot of notations in here [shows PT his book] but this is my system – I have a whole color system. And I have notes from everything when we talked about scenery moving and all of that, but I do this system that I made up that works really well for me: where orange is props, blue is lights, green is sets, pink is costumes, and yellow is sound.

When I’m talking to the designers, I can go through the script – so that’s really helpful in pre-production for me. That’s why it’s all here. And then I make notes about stuff. As I’m with the actors, I begin to break it down with beats. I’ll draw in lines. I’ll make notes. I kind of react off more with the actors because I do table work. Like for a musical, it’s different than a play. For a play, I will work at the table for anywhere up to seven days sometimes; but it’s usually at least four.

I believe that you have to have some clarity about text and script and approach and choices before you get on to the stage because once you get up, everyone starts worrying about how they’re looking and what they’re doing. If you do that part of the process right, usually I don’t have to block. It pretty much stages itself and then I only have to clarify because there’s nothing more. Boring. Believe it or not. People think that’s what we do – tell people where to go but there’s nothing more boring, for me anyway, than to do that – I can’t do it.

It’s always come easily to me – the stage. It’s all about ground plan. It is the secret of staging. After ground plan, if it has a problem in it, it’s twice the amount of work. If you get the right ground plan and you get the right actors in a room, they know what they’re doing, they know what they want to get, and we explore.

PT: What a great methodology.

RR: It’s the exploration period first and then there’s the period of making some choices because what I like to do is – put it this way, I’m not a fan of exact duplication every night. It loses the spontaneity. That doesn’t mean that it’s anything they [the actors] want to do. But we create a very solid structure from which the actors can move about; from there you can’t really change blocking majorly.

Rob Ruggiero9But you create enough structure that there’s that breath — so a production can have life and spontaneity. With a musical, a lot of the time, people will come in and they’ll do a really rough read and then stage it right away. Again, I don’t do that. We will spend, in this case, two to three days because there’s so much music – learning music and looking at some of the scenes. And then, about three days in, I’ll do a full read through at the table once they’ve learned everything. It’s much more helpful. And then I’ll start working on it in sections.

PT: I was going to ask you the differences between working on musicals and drama because some directors focus on just one or the other.

 Rob: I’m unusual. I’m part of a smaller breed. I pretty much do equal parts musicals and plays. I believe that my musicals are better because I direct plays and my plays are better hopefully because I direct musicals.

PT: What do you find to be the differences in directing?

RR: To me, the differences are the addition of music. A musical is pretty much a play with music and that there’s one other level – that particular tool where somebody needs to express themselves in song or dance that a play doesn’t have. But I still look at it in terms of relationships and the right storytelling behavior – that it tells a story. Like what are the actions, what are the objectives, and stuff like that. Other people think, “This is a musical so I’m going to start staging it.” I’m doing a show at Goodspeed this year; it will be my tenth show. Eleven years ago was when I did my first show there. They do a lot of old-fashioned musicals there. The way I look at it is frosting is great, but people like cake with their frosting. You have to have cake with your frosting. I don’t care if it’s Bye Bye Birdie or Anything Goes.

PT: We also review their shows. In fact we reviewed Jenn Thompson’s Bye Bye Birdie who we know also did The Call here.

RR: That’s a good example. Like the two principals in Birdie. They were great and were able to take that material which is dated and can sometimes be frivolous in the wrong hands and she created a nice little romance and relationship there. That’s what I’m talking about.

PT: (Stephanie) There was a lot of cake in there!

RR: Jenn was responsible for that.  She’s doing Oklahoma there, right before me. I did Oklahoma awhile ago.

PT: (Wayne) When you’re doing a play like Oklahoma, right away, you think Oklahoma – Hugh Jackman.

RR: He redefined that role.

PT: As a director though, are you influenced by big actors in roles like that?

RR: Sure. It’s funny you brought that up. That Oklahoma was revelatory for me because I thought, They must have changed the script. But they had not changed the script.

PT: (Wayne) I thought so, too.

RR: I said, “This feels up to date. It doesn’t feel cheesy and like Heya there!” And I realized it was all definitely a defining moment for me in terms of a director of musicals. I thought Wow.

PT: So we’d love to know how you use your space and the decisions you make. There are some restrictions within the space. It’s not huge…  

 RR: We often do scene changes at intermission, but we’ve done other shows where there’s more. Did you see Good People?

PT: No, we didn’t.

RR: So Next to Normal is going to be really interesting for you to see.

PT: We can’t wait!  We definitely want to follow up on this interview. This was absolutely great. But one thing before we forget – we always ask this in every single interview that we do. Ready?

 RR: Ready!

RobbRuggiero10PT: If you were to sum up your life and career in one word, what would it be?

RR: My life and career in one word…hmm…Meaningful.

PT: (Stephanie) I love that. We get blessed a lot and I don’t think we’ve ever heard that. (Wayne) This has been so great.

 RR: Thank you both for doing this.

PT: Absolutely! We’ve been wanting to get out here for a while now. You do such incredible work. We don’t know how you balance it all. We could keep chatting forever with you but we’ll reluctantly let you get back to work!


RRuggiero12Read Pillow Talking’s Review Of Next To Normal… coming soon!

BUT DON’T WAIT to order tickets. It’s going to be a RAVE!

For information and tickets


Stephanie & Wayne

About Stephanie & Wayne

Stephanie is a journalist, writer, editor, and has had several hundred articles published in various newspapers and magazines, many of which still are available online under “Stephanie Lyons Schultz”. She has a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology and was a practicing psychotherapist. She currently is a professor of psychology at WCSU and NVCC in Connecticut. Wayne is an Emmy-Award winning writer, producer, and director. He has produced many programs and documentaries that have appeared on television, and have been distributed to schools, libraries, and home video. Wayne also is a practicing attorney with a Masters degree in Law from NYU. In addition, he is a professor of communications at WCSU. Together, this recently wed couple write, produce, and direct as many of their stage, screen, and TV projects as they can with a full house -- their combined brood of seven! Some of their work has been featured this summer and fall off off Broadway; other work currently is under option. They hope to continue to promote more of their projects in the coming months! Feel free to write whatever comments you like! We want your feedback!