By David Dixon
Following an extended break from acting, City Heights resident Ruth Carlson Russell who is also a producer and stage manager is back onstage as one of the stars of Scripps Ranch Theatre’s production of Bernard Slade’s 1988 comedy “Return Engagements.”
Russell’s involvement in local theater began after she moved to San Diego in 2007, when she was looking for opportunities to work in theater. Soon, Russell found out that Scripps needed a stage manager. She started working behind the scenes and eventually moved onstage.
Russell decided to audition for Slade’s show because she was impressed with his excellent development of the female characters in the play. Slade is known for writing the screenplay that became the 1978 romantic comedy “Same Time, Next Year.” Despite her long history with Scripps, this is Russell’s first show onstage at the theater.
In one of three stories that take place in Act 1, Russell plays Daisy Lawrence, an unsatisfied actress who, before her wedding, has a one-night stand with a bellboy, Raymond MacKay (Adam Daniel). The second act takes place 25 years after the incident.
Russell has plenty of other responsibilities, so she only works on projects that appeal to her.
“I thought that this could be a strong opportunity for me to showcase my skills,” she said. “The character really seems to fit with what I enjoy doing.”
Daisy’s complicated personality is one of Russell’s favorite aspects about the role. “Daisy is an incredibly shy woman who hides it by being obnoxious,” Russell said. “It’s a fun mental challenge to bring humanity to her, and still hit the right punchlines.”
While she does enjoy producing and being a stage manager, Russell is most passionate about acting. “It is an incredible rush to be onstage, giving the audience a magical experience,” she said. “Stage managing and producing are wonderful organizational challenges, but I’d choose acting if I had to pick.”
Russell also enjoyed working with the ensemble during rehearsals. “None of the actors could keep a straight face during rehearsal,” she said. “They really bring their sense of humor and own lives to their characters.”
Outside of her work in the arts, Russell works for Cox Communications. She is also a yoga teacher for YogaFully and a wedding and event coordinator for Ruthful Coaching, wedding & event coordination.
For Russell, there are strong parallels between her different activities because they all allow her to be creative. “When I’m teaching yoga, I’m in front of the group, similar to being onstage, and driving them through an experience,” she said. “As a wedding and event coordinator, I’m using my powers to help the bride and groom behind the scenes, so the attendees have a really incredible day.”
Beyond all her creative work, a recent highlight for Russell was moving from North Park to City Heights. She loves how welcoming her neighbors are and enjoys the friendliness of her neighborhood. “I have an extended family and am so fortunate to be part of the community,” she said. “It’s lovely.”
With so much available to her seconds away from home, Russell can’t get enough of what City Heights has to offer. She has discovered different areas for the first time. Some of her new favorite spots are the Manzanita Canyon and City Heights/Weingart Library. “Each place has its own flair and charm,” she said. “There’s something really colorful about the area.”
Now that Russell has finished her hiatus from the stage, she intends to start auditioning at different theaters in San Diego County, letting more residents experience her talent.
“Return Engagements” is running at the Scripps Ranch Theatre through April 28. For tickets or more information, visit scrippsranchtheatre.org or call 1-858-578-7728.
— A fan of film and theater from a very young age, David Dixon has written reviews and features for various print and online publications. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.