Celebrating the members of the League of Professional Theatre Women

Ruth Mayleas

Ruth Mayleas, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenFoundation Arts Program Officer OR Foundation Arts Executive
New York, New York USA

I believe strongly in government and private support for the entire nonprofit sector of all the arts, and have worked in both sectors — with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ford Foundation — to further those beliefs and convictions. In all, the grant programs I developed in both sectors, the two guiding principles were the quality of the arts being produced and attention to representation of minorities and women.

Originally, I was strongly influenced by my family, which provided me with extensive exposure to the arts and particularly the theatre.

I was present at the flowering of the Off Broadway theatre movement in New York and have remained strongly attached to the work of its pioneers and, very selectively, with exponents of experimental work. Though no play or production changed my life, I was certainly strongly influenced by productions seen in Europe during a seminal trip there in the early sixties — and later by theatre in the then Soviet Union transitioning to Russia — and still later by performing arts (theatre, dance) seen in Asia, particularly Asia and Indonesia.

No really favorite book, though I could read and re-read many 19th century novels, and Henry James, and The English Patient—and am mesmerized by the books of W.G. Sebald (there are all too few of them).

I dream of more travel, mostly to unfamiliar places, but also to Italy which will never be familiar enough. The other thing I dream of doing is finishing Proust!

Ruth Mayleas was first Director of Theatre Program, NEA: 1966-78; subsequently Director, Arts Program and International Consultant, Ford Foundation: 1982-1994. At NEA shaped national program for nonprofit theatres throughout the country. At Ford Foundation work encompassed support for all performing arts, including theatre and visual arts. Work emphasized minority arts organizations, commissioning, development of new work.

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