In doing a spotlight on the Ruskin Group Theatre Company there is no shortage of interesting and noteworthy topics to report on. More copy than there is inches to print. The theatre company does good work. Their commissioned play “Sideways” by Rex Pickett ran for an incredible sold-out eight months and has been picked up by the La Jolla Playhouse for their 2013/2014 season. Their current production, “Paradise – A Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy,” has been attracting the attention of producers from Broadway, (or was it off-Broadway or off-off-Broadway) producers from New York. At any rate, they do good work.
Don’t take my word for it. Go see a production, judge for yourself. Or do take my word for it. I’m a tough audience and I keep going back.
Or there’s the Ruskin School of Acting, which specializes in the teachings of the great Sanford Meisner. Why Meisner? Because the founder John Ruskin studied under and became Meisner’s apprentice and taught for him on the acting faculty at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York. Paragraphs could be spent discussing the different classes offered and the caliber of master teachers that have taught scene study seminars – Anthony Hopkins, David Mamet and Dylan McDermott to name a few.
But I already knew all of this before speaking with Artistic Director John Ruskin and Managing Director Michael Myers. Go to their website and read all about the school and the theatre company. It’s an interesting read and well worth your time. What I didn’t know is that the driving force behind both the school and the theatre company is a passion to create a great artistic community where artists can come together, explore and do good work. And, like any good community, give back to those in need. Ruskin Group Theatre’s outreach program, Healing Through the Arts, focuses on doing just that.
Since the school’s inception in 1986, Ruskin Group has done workshops and performances in youth detention centers, medium security prisons, retirement homes and volunteered at hospices. Through a program called Fostering Imagination, foster were brought in and taught acting, directing and writing. The company is currently working with the Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA, bringing in short performances, teaching workshops or simply spending time with the kids; whatever is needed.
For some of the programs, company members would drive two hours each way to work for one hour. And they would do this every week, for no pay. They would do this, because it was all part of their community. All part of what makes this community so special. Both Ruskin and Myers credited luck for their successes several times, luck and hard work.
However, I tend to be a believer that what you put out into this world will return to you tenfold. This company’s willingness to give back, and their love of theatre and collaboration with the actors, directors, writers, musicians and patrons that walk through their doors explains why the Ruskin Group Theatre Company is thriving.
So go see a show and introduce yourself. They genuinely want to meet you.
*Coverage provided for the Culver City News