Photo Credit: Radstone
February 6, 2022—Ruben Santiago-Hudson is a consummate artist and brilliant craftsman, who is well known for his hard work, generosity, compassion, and love of family. A Champion of the Arts, Ruben wears many hats very well—director, actor, writer, and musician—and he has two Tony Awards, several Obies, and nearly a score of Broadway credits to prove it.
Ruben also has the distinction of being one of a few artists of color profiled by the business magazine, Forbes. I urge the readers of Arts & Culture Connections to check out the recent profile at this link. I realize many of you are likely familiar with Ruben’s work. However, I wanted to share the Forbes story because of the way the article describes Ruben’s integrity, passion, courageous advocacy, and heart, which I believe are among the defining attributes of Champions of the Arts.
I first had the honor of meeting Ruben when George C. Wolfe served as artistic director and producer at The Public Theater. Ruben always talked about his hometown of Lackawanna, New York, and his primary caregiver, Nanny. George encouraged Ruben to write about it. Subsequently, Ruben’s play, Lackawanna Blues, premiered at the Public in 2001, and I worked with Ruben to engage audiences and community support. HBO premiered the film based on the play in 2005.
I have seen Ruben perform in many plays, act on television, as well as in films. However, I believe his masterpiece performance to date was the recent Broadway run of Lackawanna Blues. It was simply magical, perfection!
Ruben manages many projects—he currently is directing the Broadway production of Tony nominee Dominique Morisseau’s new play, Skeleton Crew, about a group of Detroit workers fighting against economic peril. Despite his full plate, Ruben continues to advocate for and engage in the process of ensuring access to Broadway for members of both the African-American and Latinx communities. He also is a renowned champion of Black playwrights, and pushes for the resources to break down the myths, attitudes, and barriers that these works are only of interest to audiences of color.
But Ruben considers the 2014 opening of the Ruben Santiago-Hudson Fine Arts Learning Center in his hometown of Lackawanna, New York, as one of his most cherished accomplishments. It’s another hallmark of a Champion of the Arts—opening doors for future generations and building legacy.