|photos by Kate Russell|
Called by Gia Kourlas of the New York Times “an improviser truly living in the moment,” Ruth Zaporah has been creating, honing and teaching her art of improvisation for over five decades. She is the creator of a unique improvisational physical theater method called “Action Theater,” which is now practiced and taught by students all over the world, including Australia, Lebanon, Greece, Korea, Estonia, England, Germany, Canada and the United States. From the start of her experimental classes and performances in Berkeley, California in the 1970s, to the inception and development of Action Theater as an art form, through the elegant distillations of the work in recent decades, Ruth’s career and legacy mark her as one of the foremost theater pioneers of her generation.
Ruth entered the dance studio at age three and now, eight decades later, continues to enter the studio door. The doors have changed, but what she does in the studio—responding to her interest in the body as a vehicle for transformation—has never wavered.
Ruth’s earliest training was in ballet. As she says, in Baltimore, where she grew up, there was only ballet and tap, and her parents wouldn't hear of tap. It was in college that she was introduced to modern dance, immediately being attracted to the dramatic possibilities. After years of ballet, Ruth felt she could finally spread her wings. But for only so long; a few years later she began creating her own work, veering away from anything that smacked of convention or familiarity. Ruth was determined to find her voice, her way of being on stage.
In the mid sixties, Ruth was offered a job in a Drama Department in a Maryland college. She was hired to teach movement to actors. As she recounts it, the students came in fully dressed—shoes and all—and the last thing they seemed to want was a dance class, which was exactly what she was prepared to teach. She asked them what they wanted. They said they wanted to embody their characters. As a dancer, Ruth had no idea what “embody” meant, nor the idea of character. For lack of any other idea, she said, “walk.” That was the beginning of her fascination, and as she says, her obsession, with improvisation.
Ruth began Zen Buddhist practices when she was 17 years old. Her Dad gave her Autobiography of a Yogi to read. That lit the light, providing many answers to her many questions. Her years of practice combined with being a philosophy major in college and her performing and teaching experiences, interweaved to offer a base for her Action Theater practice.
In both 1990 and 1994, Ruth travelled, with a team of performers and organizers, to both the Sarajevo and the Kosovo wars. During the days she, along with her travelling colleagues, lit a few hours for the refugees living in these desolate camps. In the evenings they performed in small theaters in various war zones: Sarajevo, Dubrovnik, Serbia, Pristina, Belgrade, Kosovo and Zagreb. In her third book, Living on the Edge, available to order on this web site, she writes about those experiences.
Ruth is the author of several books on Action Theater, and has twice received NEA choreography grants as well as numerous other tributes and honors. She takes her work to most continents. In 2010 she was named a Cultural Envoy by the U.S. State Department.
Ruth's archival materials will be available at the New York Public Library.
She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
What is Action Theater
About Training - See Video
Zaporah's Teaching Schedule
Action Theater Articles and Interviews
Teacher's Performance Videos
Flyers - Archive
Books and DVDs,|
IMPROVISATION ON THE EDGE
THE IMPROVISATION OF PRESENCE
A MOVING PRESENCE
ACTION THEATER: The Practice
International List of Certified Teachers
Action Theater Improvisors Near You
Action Theater - Photo Gallery
Action Theater Home Page