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Interview with Dramaturg and Plays by Young Writers 2017 Artistic Director, Ruff Yeager

January 25, 2017

Playwrights Project will produce its 32nd annual festival of Plays by Young Writers, sponsored by the Sheila and Jeffrey Lipinsky Family Fund, at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 19 – January 29, 2017. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 365 plays submitted by students from across the state. Four scripts will receive full professional productions, and two scripts will receive staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

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Ruff (Dramaturg, Pros and Cons) with Katie Taylor, playwright of Pros and Cons. 

Ruff Yeager teaches and directs at Southwestern  College and has an extensive list of directing credits, including but not limited to: She-Rantulas from Outer Space – in 3-D! (Diversionary and Off Broadway); Arrow to the Heart, The Tutor, The Waves (Vox Nova Theatre Co.); Bronze (Patte Award, Outstanding Direction, San Diego Theatre Critics Circle Award, Best New Play); (Sledgehammer Theatre); Fronteras Hechas del Dinero, Quarter Cup, Hallowed, Trevor, Prom Night, Stage Directions, A Man of His Word (Playwrights Project). Ruff is serving as the Artistic Director to the festival this year, in addition to mentoring Katie Taylor as a dramaturg for her play, Pros and Cons. 

Tell us briefly about another theatre project (or projects) you’re working on outside of Plays by Young Writers.

A new theatre company, The Roustabouts, of which I am a founding member, is preparing for its inaugural season. Our first show Margin of Error begins rehearsals in March and opens in April. I am producing and acting in the show, so my days have been filled with preparation. I am also directing a new production of Godspell this spring at Southwestern College where I am a professor in the department of Theatre Arts.

How does your work in the festival differ from your other work?

This year I have the pleasure of coordinating the artistic vision for the entire festival. This administrative work is primarily about working with the very talented artists we hire, providing them with the tools to create the highest quality productions possible.

How do you define your role(s) in the Plays by Young Writers production process?

As dramaturg, I am an advocate for and a mentor to the playwright. As artistic director of the festival, I am charged with the task of insuring that the highest artistic standards are maintained.

What is your favorite part about being involved with Plays by Young Writers?

Having the opportunity to see the young playwrights grow during the rewrite and rehearsal process; and to see the looks on their faces, to experience their joy on opening night: this is what keeps me coming back to this wonderful company.

Any specific story, moment, or insight you’d like to share about the writer or play you are currently working on?

Every moment in the process of creating a work of art is one to remember and relish. I’ve had a chance to watch as each play has grown with its playwright and as each director, actor, and dramaturg has taken their respective turns in shaping these plays. I enjoy being in the rehearsal room when all the creative artists are present. There is no substitute to experiencing the thrill as they craft and create in real time, polishing these gems into precious diamonds.

What do you hope the young playwrights will learn from this experience?

I hope they learn that writing is rewriting. I hope they learn that collaboration is key. I hope they learn about their unique voice. I hope they learn that discipline is their friend. I hope they learn that each act of creation has the potential to change the world.

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Ruff with Playwrights Project Executive Director, Cecelia Kouma

Pros and Cons can be seen during Program B of Plays by Young Writers, on Friday Jan. 27th at 7:30 PM and Saturday Jan. 28th at 2:00 PM. You may purchase tickets for Fri. Jan. 27 at 7:30 PM here, and for Sat. Jan. 28th at 2 PM here. 

For more information, please contact Playwrights Project at (858) 384-2970 or write@playwrightsproject.org. Visit http://www.playwrightsproject.org/productions/pbyw/. 

*Photos courtesy of Geri Goodale of Reminisce Photography.

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