Director, new play advocate joins School of Music, Dance and Theatre faculty

Portrait of Jerry Ruiz sitting in a chair and smiling.

Jerry Ruiz joins the ASU School of Music, Dance and Theatre faculty after an extensive career developing new plays and directing world premieres. Photo by Tasha Gorel


Director and arts leader Jerry Ruiz has joined the Arizona State University School of Music, Dance and Theatre as an associate professor of theater directing. Ruiz has had an extensive career as a stage director, specializing in developing new plays and directing world premieres.

“We are delighted to have attracted Jerry Ruiz to the ASU theater program,” said Heather Landes, director of the School of Music, Dance and Theatre. “Jerry’s commitment to storytelling, and particularly those that have gone untold, and the development of new work aligns well with the mission of our school, and we are excited by his commitment to mentoring young directors and ensuring the success of his students.” 

Ruiz grew up in a small city in South Texas at the border of Mexico, where he was raised in a bicultural, dual-language home.

“That's influenced the way that my career has taken shape, working on telling culturally specific stories, working on a lot of Mexican American plays, but also on plays about other parts of the Latinxgender-neutral term for "Latino." experience, and working with playwrights of color,” he said. “A big part of my artistic platform has been trying to claim a space for those voices in the mainstream American theater.”

Ruiz earned an MFA in theater directing from the University of California, San Diego, and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University. Early on in college, he began collaborating with playwrights. Ruiz said directing new works was a natural progression from there.

“New play directors think a lot about story and how to convey a playwright's intended story clearly to an audience, and that is really perfect for me,” he said. “It was about following my artistic curiosity and where it was leading me.”

Ruiz said that he loves working with people and the intense collaboration of theater.

“I've always been drawn to story and compelling characters and shaping narratives,” he said. “But in theater, the playwrights, the director, the actors, the designers and everyone else on the team really come together and bring different perspectives to telling a story. I think that results in very rich, layered and nuanced productions.”

Ruiz said live theater successfully creates community through shared experiences.

“No two performances are alike, even if it's the same play with the same actors in the same theater,” he said. “It’s also a great forum for thinking about ideas that are complex, for having conversations, for sparking dialogue about important issues.”

This past spring, Ruiz directed Cebollas” at Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

“It was really rewarding to have that artistic community, that sense of an ensemble where we were all invested in telling the story and in working and growing together,” he said. “I love plays about the Latino experience that don't necessarily focus on the cultural part of it. It's just a part of who the characters are, and it's really about their humanity, their relationships.”

Ruiz is excited to bring his unique perspective to ASU.

“There's a real alignment between the work that is happening at ASU and the work that I do,” he said. “I love that ASU is a Hispanic-Serving InstitutionThat makes me feel right at home.”

This is not Ruiz’s first experience with ASU. In 2010, he came to the university to guest direct “26 Miles,” a drama by Quiara Alegría Hudes, the Tony Award-winning playwright of “In the Heights.”

Ruiz encourages students to be proactive and wants them to know that he is approachable and is looking forward to being their mentor. 

“Let me know you’re interested in directing or getting more experience, because then I can provide guidance and keep you in mind for opportunities that might come up,” he said. “Don't be scared to say, ‘I want to learn more.’ I encourage students to be open and honest with themselves about what's exciting to them and what they're really passionate about.”

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