Ruth Pongstaphone

Ruth Pongstaphone is a multi-disciplinary theatre artist, writer, director, designer and educator whose career in art has spanned from New York to Bangkok, through the realms of the classical theatre to performance art, the musical avant-garde, the commercial, and educational.

She is presently the co-founder and director of, international artists collective, Dhamma Theatre West (est. 2006). She is also the head of the Design Department at the Patravadi Theatre in Bangkok since 2001.

Taking advantage of being subject to the lens of her own bi-national/bi-cultural experience, Ruth explores an organically interwoven vision of eastern and western concepts in her works. Her solo design work reflects this clearly in form and texture, and she dedicates much of her time as a collaborative director/writer and educator, to discovering and developing cultural interactions through art and performance.

Part of the philosophical backbone of Ruth’s work has been her idea of art and performance as a language unto itself without borders or boundaries and her belief in the power of art as an essential way to initiate peaceful intercultural communication and to develop means of conflict resolution.

As an educator she has focused much of her work on art as a means of intercultural communication. In 2003, Ruth co-founded the cross-cultural collaboration and performer training program, Bangkok Performance Boot Camp, with Witness Relocation Theatre Company; the program ran for three consecutive years and later evolved into Bangkok Artist’s Intensive/ Dhamma Artist’s Intensive (2006-2008).

As Design and Directing faculty at Playwrights Horizon’s Theatre School (NYU 2000 – 2008), Ruth established design curriculum requirements for second year students and co-created and taught a core class in artistic communication called Director/Designer Collaboration that is still being taught in her absence. Recently, Ruth has formulated special designer and performer curriculum for workshops in the IUI Festival 2008 in Yangon and with Theatre of The Disturbed at the Alliance Francaise, Yangon 2009.

She often teaches Design workshops at the Patravadi Theatre and most recently in Bangkok, Ruth has co-created curriculum and taught in a workshop exploring the dialogue between architecture and performance for INDA at Chulalongkorn University in July 2009.

In her work as a director, she believes that art is a force that shapes our lives by showing us a reflection of our world that has hidden depths we must strive to understand for our own evolution. 

In 2007, with colleagues Patrick Palucki and Ellen Reid, Ruth co-wrote and directed a performance and multi-media piece commissioned by UNESCAP in Bangkok, involving a multi-national artistic team to communicate a message to a multi-national audience about the efforts of UNESCAP in the evolution of modern Asia. In New York (1998 – 2005), as co-director of Witness Relocation Theatre Company, Ruth co-created two productions of Roberto Zucco (1999 & 2003), as well as productions of No Exit (2001), adapted by Daniel Safer, Mr. Kolpert (2002), Katzelmacher & Germany in Autumn (2002), Blood on the Cat’s Neck (2003), and A Hall in The House of Pyhrrus (2005).  The latter two productions were created by the bi-cultural American/Thai  physical theatre ensemble that evolved from the artistic residency at the Patravadi Theatre, lead by Ruth and Witness Relocation Theatre Company from 2003 until 2005. During this time Ruth took the opportunity to explore her work purely as a designer as well, and to re-investigate her Thai cultural heritage.

Ruth’s design work stems from what she believes is the artist’s responsibility to create beauty and that when the beauty we are creating is truth our work is complete in our community.

As a designer Ruth’s work has received acclaim in the professional Theatre and avant-garde film since 1998, including an Obie Award for Best Design in 2001. She began her career as a professional designer at The American

Repertory theatre of Harvard University in 1995, working with

renowned directors including Andrei Serban, Andre Belgrader, Francois Rochaix, and Robert Woodruff. In New York she has been a designing member of Ridge Theatre since 1996.

Her most recent designs include costumes for, Lightening at our Feet at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music, NY) and The Difficulty, at Kasser Theatre (Montclair, NJ) as well as designs for Chalawan, and most recently Lilit Pralor at the Patravadi Theatre in Bangkok.

Although Ruth’s work is primarily focused on the avant-garde and experimental, she has also created commercial hair and character make-up designs for New York’s Broadway productions Triumph of Love, CapeMan, Scarlet Pimpernel, and Wicked. Her most recent commercial costume designs may be seen at Maya Bar, Millennium Hilton in Bangkok.

Her New York film effects design company, The Real Fx Co., which she founded in 1998, developed and created the character designs for Disney’s Aladdin Musical Spectacular in 2003. The Real Fx Company is currently manufacturing these designs for use by Disney in California.

Currently Ruth lives and works in Bangkok, New York, and Berlin. She is involved in the development of an art and performance space in Turingen, Germany with Dhamma Theatre West and others.

Upcoming projects include her participation as a collaborating artist at IUI Festival (Yangon 2010).