Dan Ruth - Among the Collectors

Dan Ruth - Among the Collectors

Monday, November 16, 2015

Dan Ruth & his Journey from "A Life Behind Bars"

Dan Ruth: "A Life Behind Bars" The Laurie Beechman beginning April 4th!
Dan Ruth: "A Life Behind Bars" Sold Out at the United Solo Festival 2016!
Dan Ruth: A Life Behind Bars in Williamsburg, Brooklyn June 13 & June 27
Dan Ruth: A Life Behind Bars, Richmond, VA May 19th - 27th.
Dan Ruth: A Life Behind Bars in Williamsburg, Brooklyn April 11, 25 and May 9

"A Life Behind Bars" is my latest solo performance show, in fact, it's the first solo performance I've created since 1998.  I started working on ALBB in June of 2014 with David Drake, the author and star of the Obie-winning play, "The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me."  The work was part of David's "Solo Show Shop" at the Abrons Center for the Performing arts, here in New York's Lower East Side.  I needed an artistic vent since I was busy closing the local Brooklyn bar that I had been working at since 2002 and subsequently running since 2009.  The class proved to be a Godsend and I was able to create about 25 minutes of material during the 8-week class.  The material seemed to have the bar industry in mind and the response from the audience at the reading in June, was just the impetus I needed to consider a return to the stage.

After the close of the Ale House here in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I was able to get away to the Grand Canyon and Vegas for a few days and then after the Christmas rush of selling collectibles on eBay, decided to take a class at the Upright Citizens Brigade.  The class pushed me even further to explore my acting and I began taking classes in acting for film and television with Anthony Grasso, whom I had known since my bartending days in Hell's Kitchen back in 1995.  The class was an incredible experience and I was able to audition in front of several prominent casting directors.  I was learning a great deal about on-camera work, things that would have completely escaped me had an audition been sprung upon me (I had no idea what using my "hot spot" meant).  The class was invaluable but something was missing.

Through Anthony's class, I attended another on-camera audition with a casting director who was more inclined to the world of the theatrical, rather than film and television and it was then that I asked Anthony if I could use a monologue I had written.  His suggestion was that I prepare a legit monologue and save my personal material for a second, if the casting director wanted to see it.  I prepared both and he did indeed want to see the self-written material.  I performed a two minute monologue from what would later be titled "Inside."  99% of the time, an actor should never look at an adjudicator during an audition but since it was a direct address to the audience, I couldn't help but look over and see that the casting director was grinning from ear to ear.  We talked briefly afterward and the seed was planted.  I needed to finish the show.

I gathered myself and through the support of close friends and colleagues, I went back to writing this travelogue, documenting a slice of my life as a New York City barfly.  I joined forces with long-time friend and collegue, Tanya Moberly and "A Life Behind Bars" started taking shape.  This very personal story documents my life in New York City as a bartender and server, counting me among the thousands of actors, dancers and other artistic people who end up being engulfed by the restaurant/bar industry.  Ultimately however, the goal of this show was to put an end to my constant need to edit myself out of fear for what "people might think."  This show, although still a work-in-progress, is a complete free-fall.  The result is a raw, personal and heart-felt snapshot of my journey from a young actor, to New York bartender, to a man who almost succeeded in drinking himself to death, to a sober man, retracing his steps back to the stage where it all started.

"A Life Behind Bars" had its first inception on December 19th, 2015 in front of a sold-out audience in Dixon Place's main stage, in New York City's Lower East Side.  

"A Life Behind Bars" was performed at The Gutter Bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to sell-out performances in April and May on 2016 and was extended in Williamsburg Brooklyn's most authentic rock & roll venue, June 13th and 27th at 8PM. 

"A Life Behind Bars" went south in May and was performed in Richmond, Virginia at TheatreLAB, 300 East Broad Street, to sell-out audiences May 19th through 27th, 2016.

"A Life Behind Bars" also marked Dan Ruth's first Off-Broadway debut when he once again, sold out the show on October 20th in the 2016 United Solo Festival on Theatre Row.  Dan is extremely grateful as the show continues to grow and the journey moves forward. . .

Instagram Review of A Life Behind Bars

Anthony McNally is a photographer and student at the City College of New York. Through Instagram, I discovered that he was in the audience the night of my show. He wrote a review of A Life Behind Bars for his theatre class. Here is an edited snippet from his unsolicited review (the original is quite long and double-spaced).

“When life gives you booze...make art,” proclaims actor/performer/playwright recovering alcoholic and career bartender/food-server Dan Ruth, during the climax of his one-night-only semi-autobiographical one-man show on December 19th at the legendary Dixon Place [where Blue Man Group and John Leguizamo developed their acts]. This non-linear anecdotal episodic theatre piece's scenes mainly pertain to Ruth's interactions with customers and observations of customers in bars during the '90s/2000s in pre and post gentrification Williamsburg and Hell's Kitchen. The title “A Life Behind Bars” is a double entendre of sorts - it refers to Dan's longtime profession as a bartender as well as his addiction to alcohol, to which he was a prisoner. While Dan Ruth's cleverly titled performance piece “A Life Behind Bars” is very personal, it still manages to deliver strong comedic moments, through biting sarcasm, satire and social commentary with pop-culture references aplenty. Mundane moments are made momentous while Dan Ruth effortlessly switches between performing as the weird rude customers that he encounters while working in NYC bars. Dan Ruth, much like Babe - the baseball legend with whom he shares a last name, knocks it out of the park repeatedly. His performance as each person is natural and fluid. His delivery is rapid-fire at times, yet it never, never feels forced, his comedic timing is impeccable and his emotional turning points are palpable. Every moment and every facial expression is genuine.

A good amount of Ruth's narrative expresses his dismay at the gentrification of certain parts of New York City, specifically Williamsburg and Times Square [Hell's Kitchen]. He seems to miss the pre-Giuliani NYC before the base of adult debauchery, Times Square, was Mickey-Moused-up and turned into a family-friendly tourist attraction. He misses when you could enjoy a cigarette while drinking in any bar. He misses the pre-9/11 NYC, before yuppies flocked to his adopted home Williamsburg Brooklyn and raised property taxes. He misses the Brooklyn before the bulldozing of landmarks, before the construction of the condos, and pre-Yelp Brooklyn as well. It took Ruth a while to get to this point and get back to performing. It took years of working in the poisonous bar/restaurant industry wrestling with loneliness and bouts of depression. In this piece, a big turning point in his life is when he watches the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001. The events of that day have a profound affect on many people including Ruth, and our country as a whole. During this same time period his brother passes way. He ends up drowning himself in alcohol and more bartender work to feed his unquenchable thirsty habit. His demeanor changes and his customers notice. One of his customers asks him what happened to his face and tells him he “needs to smile more.” With a somber expression Ruth replies, “Don't ever say that to a bartender. EVER.”

One-person shows are somewhat taboo in discussions about quality theater. It's always plays or musicals with multiple actors with different physical attributes that get lauded. However, huge credit must be given to performers who can command a stage on their own while not just standing there telling stories emphatically, but actually portraying different characters on their own. When it's all on you to deliver, it can be a heavy weight to carry. Ruth carries that weight with great stage presence and ease for 90 minutes with no intermission while breaking the fourth at all the right moments. The director Tanya Moberly does a great job of cultivating Ruth's storytelling talent and energetic acting style into a compelling comedic-dramatic piece. The payoff is a seminal piece of work that deserves a full Off-Broadway run. Hopefully Ruth uses the momentum from this great performance piece to fuel more shows.

Theatre 131 – City College of New York, December 20, 2015
Review/Theater: A Life Behind Bars By ANTHONY MCNALLY

A Life Behind Bars By Dan Ruth; directed by Tanya Moberly; sound design by Tim Lozada and Dan Ruth; additional music by Brooklyn bands - The Live Ones, Thee Eyes, Lowry; production assistant Jean Yannes. Presented by Dixon Place. At 161A Chrystie Street, Manhattan.

Production Stills/Photos from A Life Behind Bars
Dan Ruth - A Life Behind Bars
David Drake's Solo Show Shop reading of A Life Behind Bars and other works, June 2014
Facebook/Instagram advertising. Dan Ruth - A Life Behind Bars

Dan Ruth performs"The Inspector" from A Life Behind Bars
Dan Ruth - A Life Behind Bars
Facebook/Instagram advertising. Dan Ruth - A Life Behind Bars
Dan Ruth performs "Honey" from A Life Behind Bars
Dan Ruth in A Life Behind Bars
Dan Ruth in A Life Behind Bars
Facebook/Instagram advertising. Dan Ruth - A Life Behind Bars
Dan Ruth in A Life Behind Bars


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