Trailblazing theater artist Anita Ruth hangs up her baton

“Can we not use the phrase ‘retire?'” advised music director Anita Ruth.

Honest sufficient. Ruth is “stepping away” after 17 years at Artistry, the place she’ll conduct “Shrek” via Aug. 14.

Ruth is saying goodbye to the grind of rehearsals, though in case you’re directing “Enjoyable Residence,” “Assassins” or “West Aspect Story,” she’ll discuss. After 5 many years as a music director — beginning at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres within the early ’70s, when feminine administrators had been uncommon — she’s able to do different issues.

“After ‘Shrek,’ we’re instantly getting within the trailer and going to the Higher Peninsula of Michigan,” mentioned Ruth, 76, who grew up in Crystal. She’ll be joined by her spouse, Joan Griffith, a instructor and multi-instrumentalist who’s often in Ruth’s bands, and canine Jack and Rosie. There’s additionally a visit to Antarctica this winter.

That seems like “stepping down” however, in any other case, rest is not on Ruth’s menu. She’s co-writing two musicals. She and Melissa Hart wish to produce not often staged reveals in properties. She and Griffith will resume the live shows they carried out from their south Minneapolis porch, together with proficient buddies. There is a podcast collaboration and literacy/schooling initiatives with pal T. Mychael Rambo.

They’re the type of ventures that accumulate if you’ve wished to be in musical theater since an early ’60s household journey to New York that included “The Sound of Music” on Broadway.

“They rolled out Mary Martin on that rock and that was it for me,” mentioned Ruth, in her flower-filled yard close to Bde Maka Ska.

Really, her music profession began earlier, when she was 10. (The next dialog has been edited for readability.)

Q: Did you come from a musical household?
A: My mother and father would ship me to my grandmother in the summertime to take piano classes on daily basis. I used to be petrified of her, in fact. She was actually that old style — if you can also make ’em cry, you then did a great job. However I by no means had the ambition to be [a concert pianist, like her grandmother]. Now, I am extraordinarily grateful I discovered to play. As a substitute of listening to bedtime tales, I must recite the chords and all of the completely different inversions.

Q: You began gigging as a youngster, with group theaters and revues such because the First Nighters?
A: I simply sort of occurred to be in the fitting locations on the proper instances and thankfully had individuals who mentioned, “Are you able to do that?” And I might say, “OK.” I heard that Bloomington Civic Theatre [now called Artistry] wanted a piano participant as a result of theirs damage her again. [Director] John Command was there and likewise within the First Nighters.

Q: You had been there just a few years earlier than Chanhassen Dinner Theatres started in 1968?
A: Gary Gisselman, at Bloomington, was chosen to be the creative director of Chanhassen and we had been all like, “Take me, take me.” Lots of people from Bloomington went.

Q: That is the place you shifted from pianist to music director?
A: The identical 12 months my mother died, my greatest good friend Carolee Fariday died, 1972. So we did a profit at Chanhassen for the Most cancers Society in honor of her and it was unbelievable. I did the orchestrations, which I had not executed earlier than, and we had a giant band and we made some huge cash. Proper after that, Gary mentioned, “Might you make Chanhassen’s band sound like that?” And I mentioned, “Positive.” So then I used to be the music director.

Q: Did the all-male band resist a feminine chief?
A: There was no pushback. It was fully collaborative. Within the pit, except the music director simply cannot do it, the musicians know their job is to interpret what’s in entrance of them and comply with the director.

Q: You have mentioned “A Little Evening Music” was a Chanhassen landmark. You had been not directly a part of its 1973 world premiere?
A: Len Cariou did tons and tons of reveals on the Guthrie [starting in 1966]. I used to be his piano participant. Jon Cranney, who I used to be dwelling with on the time, was the manufacturing supervisor on the Guthrie, and so I knew Len. He auditioned for “A Little Evening Music” in New York, so he would shuttle earlier than he acquired that gig. The primary time he got here again, he introduced “Now,” his a part of the “Now/Later/Quickly” trio, and it was in Stephen Sondheim’s handwriting! He mentioned, “Assist me with this?” I mentioned, “OK.” [Cariou would earn a Tony nomination.]

Q: You and Chanhassen parted methods in 1988?
A: Twenty years is sufficient. But it surely was a fantastic job. You might dwell within the metropolis and have a beautiful home and a fairly good life.

Q: You freelanced in every single place, together with Ruby’s Cabaret, Ballet of the Dolls, Youngsters’s Theatre Firm, VocalEssence and abroad initiatives. What returned you to Bloomington in 2005?
A: John Command mentioned, “We’re doing ‘Follies,'” and I mentioned, “The place do I signal?” Thank God for John Command, and I might such as you to place that within the paper. They did not pay hardly something. It was a group orchestra. However that they had a number of gamers and there’s something about with the ability to do the entire orchestrations that, say, Leonard Bernstein wrote for “On the City.” [At Chanhassen, Ruth re-orchestrated scores for eight to 10 players.] For “A Little Evening Music,” I had 22 musicians. Three French horns!

Q: You labored once more with Chanhassen musicians, a few of whom returned for this closing Artistry present?
A: Yup. The [13-person] band I’ve for “Shrek” is nearly totally first-call [ie., top-notch] musicians they usually’re working for lower than half what they might get at Chanhassen or Youngsters’s Theatre. However they wish to be there since you get to do the complete orchestrations.

Q: What are you going to overlook?
A: My orchestra. The Chan band — we had been actually tight then and a number of us nonetheless are. And in Bloomington, we’ve got shaped a really tight household. Getting to return out and specific ourselves collectively? It means rather a lot.

Q: And it nonetheless will?
A: Joan and I’ve performed music collectively on daily basis of the pandemic. I’ve discovered a lot from her. And I get to do what I’ve at all times wished to do. So I am working towards a number of gratitude.


Who: By David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori. Directed by Angela Timberman.

When: 7:30 p.m. Wed.-Sat., 2 p.m. Solar. Ends Aug. 14.

The place: Artistry, 1800 W. Previous Shakopee Street, Bloomington.

Protocol: Masks required.

Tickets: $18-$50,

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