John Rutherford can look back in time and identify the moment – or at least the year – when his future began to take shape: a required seventh-grade Arts Exploration course.
“I was hooked, and that was it,” Rutherford, 54, said of her first theatrical experience all those years ago. “I found something I was good at and something I loved doing, so I started doing it and I haven’t stopped.
Next Friday, October 14, the Birmingham Groves High School teacher and theater director will receive the Birmingham Bloomfield Cultural Arts Award 2022. Now in its 27th year, the annual honor honors individuals selected by a jury of art lovers local art for having had an extraordinary impact on the cultural life of the community.
He has received numerous awards, including the GUVVY Arts Educator Award, Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan University Alumni Awards, Michigan Speech Coaches Teacher of the Year Award, induction into the Michigan Educational Theater Association Hall of Fame and more. , said Rutherford. likes the narrative aspect of theatre, and he particularly likes historical drama.
“There’s empathy in every theatrical performance,” he said, noting that as a 16-year-old he would go to the public library, look at recording albums of musicals by Broadway, listened over and over and imagined what the show was like. “You can’t help but feel when you watch theatre. It can be joy or happiness. Or, sometimes you are taken on a journey of pain or discovery. Theater combines your intellectual sense with emotional sensitivities.
During the day – and many evenings – Rutherford works with students, whether they teach or direct. Currently, his cast and crew are working on a high school production of “Chicago,” which will perform on the Groves stage from November 4-6 and November 11-13.
Key to his teaching style, he said, is a requirement for self-reflection.
“Do we make mistakes in live theater? Absolutely,” he said. “Do we make mistakes in life? Every day. It’s not just the mistakes we should focus on. That’s the whole story. That’s the big picture. That’s how I approach teaching and that’s how I approach theater.
Rutherford’s theatrical aspirations were not limited to high school. He also runs his own company, Barebones Theater Productions, and enjoys working with an adult cast. One day, he would like to have the experience of directing in the professional field.
Currently, I do everything,” he said. “I’m in charge of costumes, props, lights, sounds, hair, makeup, and programming. It all falls on me. So, between all that, I try to realize.
“When you’re doing professional theater you have a creative team that takes on all of those responsibilities and the director really goes to town to get the story and find what I call the highlights. There’s nothing more satisfying for the director only when you direct and the audience responds.”
During the first summer of the pandemic, Rutherford used digital rehearsals and performances, virtual competition platforms, produced plays written by professional playwrights with adult actors, created a playwriting/Zoom acting workshop that helped develop original scripts for the production and found ways to entertain the community. audiences with socially distant and outdoor theater opportunities.
Rutherford was nominated for the Birmingham Bloomfield Cultural Arts Award by Cathleen Badalamenti, President of the Village Youth Theater, and Ashley Wickett Lane of Bloomfield Hills.
“Mr. Rutherford is an exceptional teacher and his artistic achievements and achievements are remarkable. He brings an unparalleled combination of scholarship, talent, compassion, enthusiasm and commitment to our students, our schools and our community. His dedication to individual growth is reflected in his daily classroom and extracurricular practices. His teaching is inspirational; he believes that participation in the performing arts fosters trust, discipline, respect, tolerance and cooperation,” wrote Badalamenti.
Wickett Lane is a former student who worked with Rutherford during her time at Groves in the early 2000s. After graduating, she pursued a BFA and MFA in acting, and has been acting professionally ever since – including collaborations with Rutherford.
“Working with John as a director is every actor’s dream,” she wrote. “He has a strong vision but trusts his actors to find their way. He gives great grades but is also extremely collaborative. Many of his former students worked with him over those summer years and I think that’s a real testament to what a terrific director, mentor, and artist he is. People flock to him and come back to him again and again.
Wickett Lane also experimented with outdoor productions from Rutherford during COVID.
“I remember members of the public crying, they were so thrilled that there was a way to experience the arts during COVID,” she wrote. “A way to connect in the midst of so much disconnection. John made it possible. His innovation and determination to create art in such uncertain times is something I will never forget.
Entertainment attorney Howard Hurtz honored
Rutherford is not the only 2022 winner of the Birmingham Bloomfield Cultural Arts Award 2022
Howard Hertz, an entertainment lawyer whose client list reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ in American stardom, will receive a special lifetime achievement award as a champion of artistic freedom, honoring the enormous impact his volunteer work has had in Michigan and beyond.
As a longtime board member of the Sphinx organization, Hertz encourages, mentors, and creates opportunities for underserved young populations in the world of classical music. Her volunteer work with up-and-coming musicians, writers, and artists helps protect intellectual freedom at a time when books and all art forms are under political scrutiny.
Additionally, his efforts to support Michigan’s growing film industry and his long-term chairmanship of the Detroit Music Awards Foundation – recently awarded an Emmy for its 30th year on the air – are just a few examples of his enormous impact on the artistic community and artists. .
Hertz was named by his wife, Wendy Hertz, and by journalist Gary Graff.
“As an advocate, mentor and activist, Howard has been at the forefront of ‘taking care of children’, so to speak – in other words, serving as an ambassador and improving global health and notoriety. or the music and entertainment scene in Metro Detroit,” Graff wrote.
The village players, which this year celebrates its centenary in Birmingham will receive the Arts Prize Partners for “One Hundred Years of Vibrant Community Theatre.” The award is given directly by the Cultural Council to honor a business, nonprofit or organization in our community that supports the arts in a distinguished way.
This year’s winners will be celebrated at a limited in-person event. The ceremony will air on local cable and will be available after the event on culturalcouncilbirminghambloomfield.org.
Contact reporter Laura Colvin at [email protected] or 248-221-8143.