Ruby Nelda Perez has literally caught the attention of the nations theatre critics and the audiences roaring with laughter with her one woman show, Doña Rositas Jalapeno Kitchen. Perez has performed her show all over the country from California to New York to Alaska and back home to Texas to raving reviews. The play was written by playwright/ director, Rodrigo Duarte Clark of El Teatro de la Esperanza in San Francisco, Ca.
In 1985, chicana literary writer Sandra Cisneros was the Literary Director at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center and asked Ruby to read four poems at the Womens International Day. Ruby entitled the piece, A Womans Work, and acted out the poems and her husband, Jorge Piña, who is the Theatre Arts Director at the Center, directed them and friends filled in the music. The audience, mostly women were rolling in the aisles with laughter. One man who saw the performance, Juan Rodriguez from Seguin approached Perez after the show and offered her $50.00 to do a repeat performance in Seguin.
From there Rubys career as a solo performer took off. She has had over 300 performances throughout the U.S. and Mexico. To put it in Perezs words, My touring success is due to audiences like yourselves and your word of mouth (o mejor dicho el chisme). Did you hear about esa girl in San Antonio? Hace un one-woman show. Maybe she could perform for your conference. No cobra mucho and she can perform anywhere!
And perform anywhere is correct. She has performed from Theatre Festivals throughout the country, her parents, Arnulfo and Ruby Perezs ranchito in La Rosita, Tx., major latino conferences, malls, battered womens shelters, jails, labor camps in Southern California, and juvenile detention centers.
Where did it all begin? Ruby was born in Chicago where her parents had gone to work but by the age of five she was back in South Texas. She attended schools in Alice, Tx. from 1-12 grades. In the 10th grade she enrolled in drama class and learned the traditional theatre. After graduation in 1971, she enrolled at Texas A&I University in Kingsville, Tx. She started performing in the traditional plays and was going to be a drama teacher.
That was until Joseph Rosenberg arrived at Texas A&I in 1972. He had moved from New York City and had friends in theatre in Mexico City. He persuaded the actors in the drama department to perform Spanish plays. The 1st play was La Fiaca. Most of the actors didnt know any Spanish so Rosenberg hired a tutor to teach them. That summer they traveled to Mexico City and performed there as well as throughout Mexico.
Ruby left A&I in 1975 and moved to Alice where she taught one year at a daycare center. In 77-78 she moved to Houston for 2 years and joined the first professional bilingual theatre of Houston, director Arnold Mercado. Perez next tried Hollywood and after five months she decided it was not for her. She moved back to Texas and her husband to be, Jorge Piña, told her to try out for the Teatro Esperanza, based at the U.C. at Santa Barbara. She auditioned and was made a member of the troupe. After touring across the U.S. for 1 1/2 years she had had enough. While with Teatro Esperanza they toured Cuba for a month and she and Jorge were married there. They later married at the Guadalupe Church in Alice.
Piña landed the job of artistic director at the Guadalupe Cultural Center and San Antonio was home for good. Ruby was busy taking care of their baby girl, Alma until that day in 1985 when Sandra Cisneros asked her to read the poems at the Womens Conference and then her solo career took off and she hasnt slowed down since.
1999 looks like a busy year for Ruby as she is starting the season in Alaska and will be in South Texas at Texas A&M Kingsville on March 9 & 10 at the Little Theatre. Performances are at 7:30 pm and tickets are $5.00 a person. I would like to encourage everyone to come out and support Ruby in a homecoming performance. For more info call 593-2760.
Ruby and her husband, Jorge have two daughters, Alma Victoria and Maya Luna. Jorge has started a theatre group for students ages 13-18 called Animo and their oldest daughter, Alma Victoria is one of the actresses. With mom and dads guidance, look for a future star.
Editors note: While interviewing Ruby at her parents ranchito out at La Rosita in Duval county I got to try some of Doña Rositas tamales and I must say that they were delicious. I want to thank Ruby and her parents, Arnulfo and Ruby Perez for some great hospitality. The sacrifices one has to make for a story.
Ruby Nelda Perez
Scene from Doña Rosita's Jalapeno Kitchen