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Joel Ruark BFA 1978 Distinguished Alumni

Joel Ruark BFA 1978 Distinguished Alumni


Joel Ruark earned a BFA in Theatre at Ohio University in 1978, with an emphasis in Theatre History and Dramaturgy.His advisor was Dr. Seabury Quinn, Jr.

Joel became an intern in Literary Management at ACTORS THEATRE OF LOUISVILLE in 1980/81 where he developed a passion for working with living playwrights in the development and production of new plays.From Louisville, he moved on to work at the PHILADELPHIA THEATRE COMPANY, working in both literary and production positions.

In 1983, Joel was hired as an assistant to the Artistic Director of the NEW JERSEY SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL, where he worked in casting and intern recruitment.He also provided research and study materials for production and educational purposes.

After serving briefly as the Literary Manager at THE LAMB'S THEATRE in New York City, Joel returned to Philadelphia to become the Literary Manager at the WALNUT STREET THEATRE.In addition to literary management and production dramaturgy at the WALNUT, Joel was responsible for coordinating casting, developing study guides, moderating post-show discussions and overseeing the production of new plays for a newly launched developmental subscription series.

In 1986, Joel returned to the LAMB'S THEATRE COMPANY as the General Manager, working simultaneously in the production of new plays for the company and the coordination of commercially licensed productions in the LAMB'S Times Square Theatre facility, operating under a modified Broadway production contract.

In 1989, Joel was hired to lead the staff of NEW DRAMATISTS, the nation's premiere playwright development organization.NEW DRAMATISTS (in its 40th year at that time) was facing a severe organizational and financial crisis after a number of years of artistic excellence, severely hampered by incompetent management.With a quickly reconstituted Board of Directors, a small staff and the tireless volunteer efforts of resident playwrights, NEW DRAMATISTS was able to turn the corner to stability and renewed growth under Joel's direction.Within two years, NEW DRAMATISTS went from an annual operating loss of nearly 35% of budget to a modest surplus, beginning the road to fiscal recovery.

During this recovery period, the challenge was made even more difficult by the fact that NEW DRAMATISTS was required to return nearly $94,000 to the National Endowment for the Arts; funds that had been improperly obtained by previous leadership.

Partly as a result of the notoriety of this turnaround, Joel began a series of prominent leadership positions at other institutions, including work as the founding CFO for PRAXIS HOUSING INITIATIVES, a NYC housing development organization.In 1996, he became the Managing Director of WIND DANCER THEATRE, a New York based division of a commercial TV, film and theatre entity under contract with DISNEY.

In 2000, Joel was drawn back to NEW DRAMATISTS, where he continues to serve as the Executive Director.In the recent twelve years of Joel's leadership, NEW DRAMATISTS has gained significant institutional strength. NEW DRAMATISTS was recognized with a 2001 Tony honor and an institutional Obie Award in 2005.During those twelve years, the previously cash-strapped organization saw extraordinary growth and increased fiscal stability with an annual budget expanding nearly 80%, the retirement of all outstanding debt and the establishment of a reserve fund of just over $1.1 million.Services to writers expanded and the solid reputation that the Organization had established in the fifties and sixties had been quite fully restored.In 2012, Joel oversaw an extensive restoration of NEW DRAMATISTS' flagship 110-year-old building in Manhattan.Thanks to those substantial cash reserves, the Organization remains debt free.

The playwrights that have enjoyed seven-year residencies at NEW DRAMATISTS have collectively been awarded 24 Tony Awards, 73 Obies, 17 Drama Desk Awards, 4 MacArthur Fellowships, 12 Susan Smith Blackburn Awards and 17 Pulitzers, (including the 2012 Pulitzer, awarded to Quiara Alegria Hudes.)Ten of those Pulitzers were awarded to NEW DRAMATISTS playwrights during Joel's tenure.NEW DRAMATISTS has become an important resource for many of America's finest playwrights who have had the opportunity to participate in artistic residencies at critical times in their artistic development.Joel's passion for the mission of NEW DRAMATISTS has made his ongoing work a labor of love and he is proud to have had the opportunity to work with so many fine writers throughout his tenure.

For the 2013 fiscal year, New Dramatists was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts of $100,000, the largest amount awarded in this round to any arts organization in the country.