Actress dishes up attitude and top-notch acting skills in her kitchen-themed plays

Oct. 7, 2010 at 5:07 a.m.

Actress Ruby Nelda Perez

Actress Ruby Nelda Perez

By the time the curtain came down in the William Adams High School Auditorium, Ruby Nelda Perez knew there would be many more plays in her future. That first play for Perez, then 15 and an 11th-grader, was in 1969 in Alice.

Perez will always remember that first play in 1969 when she was an 11th-grader in Alice. It was a supporting role in "Riders to the Sea," a one-act play by Irish playwright John Millington Synge. She was struck with the acting bug.

"I knew I wanted to pursue it in the future," said Perez, who eventually went on to become a famed international actress. "I was hooked."

Over the years, Perez, now 56, has starred in several one-woman productions, including "A Woman's Work," "Rosita's Day of the Dead" and, most recently, "Dona Rosita's Jalapeño Kitchen."

After graduating from high school, the Chicago native went on to study theater at Texas A&I University in Kingsville. While there, the late Joseph Rosenberg, a drama teacher at the university, introduced her to Latin American theatre.

The two eventually founded El Teatro Bilingue de Kingsville, which toured various locations in the United States and Mexico. This exposure led to being spotted by a Houston-based producer. He asked Perez to join his acting company, the First Professional Bilingual Theatre of Houston.

Perez stayed with the company until 1979, when she and an actress friend decided to take their acts to what many people described as the entertainment capital of the world - Los Angeles. There, she worked part time at the De La Raza Cultural Center theatre and as a hat check girl at Chippendale's, in between going to movie and TV commercial auditions.

Needless to say, Perez was disenchanted with the hollow glitter of Hollywood.

"I did not like Los Angeles or the cattle calls. It wasn't for me," said Perez, who only stayed in the city for six months. "I got it out of my system."

Perez said she thought being a Hispanic actress played a part in her lack of success as an actress at that time.

But a move to Santa Barbara, Calif., to join another acting company proved beneficial. It was there that she met playwright Rodrigo Duarte Clark, who later went on to write many of Perez's one-woman plays including "Dona Rosita's Jalapeño Kitchen."

Also, it was in Santa Barbara that Perez said she found her calling as an actress.

"I realized there was a theatre that spoke to my reality and culture - both worlds of being Hispanic and being in the U.S.," she said. "It changed the course of my acting. My plays became more issue-driven and about a Chicano/Latina living in the U.S."

Later in 1982, she returned to Houston where she took on the position of executive director with her alma mater, the First Professional Bilingual Theatre of Houston - and the position of wife to her husband Jorge, who is also an actor. Then she followed her husband to San Antonio in 1984.

"We consider our family to be a migrant family because we follow the theatre," Perez joked.

While there, Perez did radio and TV commercials and appeared in a several independent films and made-for-TV-movies such as the "Bolivian Bank Teller" and "The Gambler," which featured Kenny Rogers.

Perez and her family moved back to Houston in 2005, where she continued to perform her one-woman shows in various venues nationwide, building a growing and diverse fan base.

"Ruby is a brilliant comedic actress and has incredible range. She has the rare ability to seamlessly move from character to character in her one-woman shows, embodying all manner of characters who come to her restaurant for lunch and the daily gossip," said Stacy Meshbane, managing director, Holden & Arts Associates Booking & Management Services for the Performing Arts. "When you see one of Ruby's shows, you feel as though you are a guest in her restaurant, enjoying the inside scoop on the goings on of Dona Rosita's tiny Texas border town."

Holden & Arts Associates have worked as Perez's agent for the past 10 years.

Phyllis Goodman, the box office manager for the Invisible Theatre in Tucson, Ariz., expressed similar thoughts.

"She had a very enjoyable show," Goodman said about Perez's performance of her latest show at their theatre. "She was very entertaining."

Perez said, "I consider my plays to be 83 percent English with an accent and an attitude. Sometimes, I say I'm not an actress. I'm a glorified storyteller."



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