By Raquel Leifer, Features Editor
Each month, the YU Observer aims to highlight a YU faculty member. For the February 2023 edition, the YU Observer is highlighting Professor Reuven Russell.
Raquel Leifer: Please introduce yourself.
Reuven Russell: Hi! My name is Reuven Russell. I received my BA in Acting from Carnegie-Mellon University, and my MFA from Yale School of Drama. I am now in my 17th year teaching Public Speaking and Theater at SCW. I have been the Artistic Director of SCDS for 16 years, and I am now in my 2nd year as Artistic Director of YCDS.
RL: What do you like most about working at YU?
RR: One of the things I like most about the teaching at SCW is the enthusiasm of the students.
RL: What made you passionate about your field?
RR: I come from a theatrical family. My father was a comedian and Jewish humorist, and my mother was a theatrical costume designer who ran her own business for 40+ years. So really, I’m just a nice Jewish boy going into my family’s business.
RL: Is there anything interesting you are currently working on?
RR: I am currently in rehearsal with YCDS in a play called The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui by Bertolt Brecht. Although the play takes place in Chicago in the 1930s and shows the rise of a crime boss, it is all an analogy for the rise of Hitler, y”s.
RL: Do you have any advice for students interested in a career in your field?
RR: The advice I would give any observant Jewish artist is, don’t stop creating your own work. Don’t wait for other people to call you and offer you a job. Keep putting your good work out there. And if it’s truly good, it will be recognized.
RL: What makes your field special?
RR: There are only a handful of observant Jewish artists, let alone, observant Jewish actors/directors. What’s special about that is that we have an opportunity to use our God-given talents in a Kosher way.
RL: If you could bring in any guest lecturer, alive or deceased, who would it be, and
what would they speak about?
RR: Any guest lecturer? Maimonides. He could talk about whatever he wanted to.
RL: What is one thing you want students to know about you?
RR: One thing I try to let my students know about me, is that whether in a classroom or in the theater, we always have to find the joy in whatever it is we’re doing – just like life. And especially when we are involved with doing things in the realm of Judaism and Torah this is certainly of prime importance.
RL: Is there a particular book you would recommend that everyone read?
RR: Joseph Telushkin’s book about the Lubavitcher Rebbe, titled “Rebbe” is a book I would recommend to anyone.