Richard Ruiz

Acting Alum Debuts as Director of Musical Comedy

There comes a time when many actors think about moving from the spotlight onstage to behind the scenes to direct.

For stage veteran Richard Ruiz ’98 MFA, that time came when he returned to Storrs to play a familiar role as Sancho Panza in the Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s 2012 Nutmeg Summer Series production of “Man of La Mancha” directed by his longtime mentor, Vincent Cardinal, chair of the dramatic arts department.

“Vince had not directed it before. He would consult me often and ask if this would be a good way to direct a scene,” says Ruiz, who had performed the role of Panza five times previously. “I ended up kind of semi-directing some of those scenes from the wings. I enjoyed that collaborative process. It sparked thoughts about being a director. I pitched it to him that someday I’d like to direct.”

Ruiz makes his directorial debut with this week’s CRT production of “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” the Tony Award-winning musical comedy based on the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” the wacky British comedy troupe’s send-up of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table and their quest to find the mystical object in Arthurian legend that would provide eternal youth, abundant food, and happiness. “Spamalot” stars Richard Kline as King Arthur and Mariand Torres as the Lady of the Lake in performances from April 21 to May 1 in the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre.

Ruiz, who last appeared onstage at CRT in 2014 with Kline in Neil Simon’s popular “The Sunshine Boys,” says he imagined that his first directing experience would be a small play with two or four actors, not a full-scale musical.

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The CRT production of “Spamalot” will be performed April 21 through May 1 at the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre in the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts. For more information, go to the CRT website.