William & Mary
Directory Page Title

Robert Ruffin

Lecturer of Theatre

Office: PBK Hall 213
Email: [[rruffin]]
Phone: 757-221-2670

Courses taught

Playwriting, Beginning Acting, Introduction to Theatre, Stage Combat, Directing


Robert has been a theatre professional for over twenty-five years and is a Founding Member of The Metropolitan Playhouse of New York where he served as President of the Board, producer of New Works, and later, as Artistic Director.  During his tenure he led the company to its first profitable season.  He was also a co-creator and former producer of Theater Without Borders (a joint American/Lithuanian performing arts project) and a producer of The Gathering (Off-Broadway starring Theodore Bikel; National Tour and Broadway starring Hal Linden).  In 2001, Robert co-founded Virginia Premiere Theatre which he built from scratch to a $500k annual budget. Under his guidance, the company became a member of TCG, produced many successful world premieres and served thousands of Virginia students through its arts-in-education program.  In 2007, the company was one of 25 arts organizations featured to State Legislators by Virginians for the Arts in their “Arts Build Communities” campaign.  In 2008, he led the successful merger of the company with Tidewater Regional Repertory which resulted in a repositioning and rebranding as American PlayWorks.  He served the resulting company as Producing Artistic Director until 2011 when he left to develop a comprehensive performing arts development program for Gloucester County, Virginia.  In 2013, he served as Interim Producing Artistic Director of the Virginia Shakespeare Festival where he successfully led the effort to have VSF declared “The Official Shakespeare Festival of Virginia” by the Legislative Assembly.

Robert has written five plays produced on the New York stage Valentine’s Waltz (commissioned by the NY Bar Association), The Morality of Death: a grotesque burlesque, The Reluctant Raj (commissioned by the NY Catholic Archdiocese), Untitled Edwardian and Pirates Blood, and authored two one-man shows, An Evening With the Great English Poets and The Great American Poets, that he currently tours in Virginia.  For America’s 400th Anniversary Celebration, with composer Mike Peed, he wrote Ba-baaah and the Windigo, a children’s play that toured the East Coast and played to audiences of 450,000;  1781: An American Symphony (presented as the culminating event for the 225th Anniversary of the Victory at Yorktown); Visions of Democracy for America’s Grand 400th Weekend Celebration, which was attended by numerous dignitaries include President George W. Bush and Queen Elizabeth II, and the CBS Television Special America’s 400th Anniversary that aired on over 60 CBS affiliates nationwide.  Also, with composer John Tracy, he wrote Winning Liberty Land, an original musical comedy commissioned by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for the America’s 400th Anniversary Celebration.  With Ian Rose, he co-authored The Quest for the Golden Albatross which has been a ten-year feature at Historic Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Seaport Museum and with award-winning poet Robert P. Arthur he co-wrote A Chesapeake Celebration! that was published by San Francisco Bay Press.  Robert’s full-length stage adaptation of O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi premiered with Virginia Premiere Theatre in November of 2007, played in Chicago and Virginia in 2008 and was optioned for a national tour.  He recently completed the book and lyrics for Love and Liberty, with British-Grammy-winning composers David McKay and Ken Ashby, and The Lifeblood of Justin Faith with composer John Tracy.  His series Kiss My Little Girls – 1861: Coming Home and Kiss My Little Girls 1862: The Healing Child, Civil War era drama’s, were commissioned by the Cook Foundation and were produced in Virginia in 2011 and 2012.  He is currently working on the Pocahontas Diaries also commissioned by the Cook Foundation.  Robert’s video documentary work includes Great Moments in American Innovation, Gloucester County: Encounters in History and America’s Final Victory which received a 2010 Telly Award for video.  A freelance weekly columnist with The Wall Street Transcript for ten years, Robert interviewed top Fortune 500 CEO’s and analyzed managements and management practices in over 100 industries.  Robert is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America.

As a dramaturge/consultant, producer and Artistic Director, Robert guided the development of dozens of new plays to New York stages, including The Gathering (Broadway with Hal Linden) and Magic Hands Freddy (Off-Broadway with Ralph Maccio) by Arje Shaw; Joanna’s Husband and David’s Wife by best-selling author Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey; Last Dance at Bedtime (international tour) by Innes Fergus McDade and Round Trip by Oliver Hailey.  With Virginia Premiere Theatre, he has overseen development of a many new works including The K of D by Laura Schellhaardt (published by TCG), Pen Pals by Michael Griffo (published in the UK), The Waiting Room by Simon Brooke (produced in Australia) and Don’t Dance Me Outside (published in the Czech Republic) by William Borden.

As an actor, Robert has performed numerous roles in New York and regional theaters, including: Lee, Arthur Miller’s biographical character in the New York revival of his The American Clock; Washington Irving in the New York premiere of Frank Higgin’s Washington Irving’s Sketchbook; The Narrator/Czech Men in the New York revival of Larry Shue’s Wenceslas Square, which later toured Lithuania as part of an international theatrical project; and Weirdo and White King in the New York Premiers of Etched in Amber and Zugzwang.  His classical work includes: Tartuffe, Henry IV, I, Hamlet, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Love’s Labours Lost and as a member of New York’s Riverside Shakespeare Company ; Richard II, Richard III, Macbeth, King John, Twelfth Night, Taming of the Shrew,.  His film work includes a principal role as Major Thomas Eckert in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln starring Daniel Day Lewis, Fidgit, in the film version of William Wycherly’s The Country Wife, Dmitri in William Pace’s independent swashbuckler Rivalry, and Satan in Apocalypse.  Television appearances include leads in A Haunting in Connecticut (movie of the week), Interpol, The New Detectives, Wicked Relations and FBI Files as well as numerous commercials and industrials.  In Virginia, he played Dr. Livesay in Treasure Island and Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol with the Virginia Stage Company, Captain Hook in Peter Pan at the Suffolk Center for the Arts and King Richard III with the Virginia Shakespeare Festival.  Robert has worked extensively as a voiceover artist and is currently the voice of Vibraline, a line of industrial equipment.  He has performed in a Royal Command Performance for the English Monarchy and is a member of Actors Equity Association

Robert has directed productions and taught theatre and theatrical combat throughout the country.  His directing credits include Mary Wadkins as Emily Dickenson in the Belle of Amherst, a production that toured nationally and internationally for 10 years.  He is a former member of Ian Rose’s fight troupe Steel, and as a fight director has staged hundreds of fights in NYC, regional and university theatres.  He is formerly a professor of theatre at C.W. Post/Long Island University and has taught and lectured at many universities including NYU; Hofstra; SUNY(s) Purchase, Binghamton and New Paltz; CUNY; John Jay University, Mary Arundel College and Keystone College.  In 1995, Robert received The Kennedy Center ACTF’s Meritorious Achievement Award for his work in Theatre Education. 

Robert earned a BFA from the professional Theatre Training Program at East Carolina University where he received the “Outstanding Graduate Award”, the “BB&T Leadership Award” and “The Amanda Loessin Award for Acting Excellence.”  He received further professional theatrical training in New York and elsewhere from such luminaries as Linda Lavin, Gregory Hines, Jeffery Holder, David Leung, Isobelle Anderson, Arthur Joseph, Carmen Delavelade and Joe Layton.  He holds an MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Playwriting from Goddard College.