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MWCS musical director reflects on 40 years of shows

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Joseph L. Ruddy measures the years in shows he’s directed at Madrid-Waddington Central School. He can remember every student and every performance. He can even tell you when each show was performed.

“I have weird memory” Mr. Ruddy said Thursday. “I measure the years in shows because they are what define me.”

The self-taught director performed in college and with the north country community theater troupe, The Grass River Players. After graduating in 1973, Mr. Ruddy returned to his alma mater to help his high school English teacher to direct “Lil’l Abner.”

“I reason I came back is that he struggled with set tech,” Mr. Ruddy said. “I pretty much am self-taught. I was just very interested in it, and learned by doing.”

Mr. Ruddy’s passion continued to grow. He has since directed 55 performances at Madrid-Waddington in the last 40 years. He has also acted as a consultant for other schools, as well. He also served as English teacher and then as principal for 15 years for the district.

“The students and the community have been very vocal and appreciative of what the shows have meant,” he said. “They have also encouraged their children to do the shows, as well. You can continue going through the cast and find that basically a one-third, if not half, the cast members are children of parents who did this when they were in school.”

His wife, Sandra, and children have also taken part in the musical productions.

“My children grew up with it,” he said. “We’ve celebrated birthdays during rehearsal.”

There is a photo of Mr. Ruddy during a rehearsal, holding his daughter Eve M.K., 17, who was 3 at the time.

“Part of the reason I wanted to stay, was to see Eve finish out high school,” he said.

Ms. Ruddy said her father’s name is synonymous with the caliber of musical productions produced at the school.

“The best part is the amount of dedication he has to our shows,” Ms. Ruddy said. “He will pull all-nighters, building the set. He even stayed late while he was principal. He is on stage constantly. He never takes a break and that is why everyone says the shows turn out so amazing.

It’s not just our show,” she said. “Last year we went over to Heuvelton when they need help blocking scenes for Annie. Whenever schools need it, he is always there to help.”

Mr. Ruddy’s last spring musical, “Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels” is set for 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the Madrid-Waddington Central School Auditorium.

The musical follows two con men in the south of France, only one of whom is established.

“One con artist is older and more distinguished,” said Ms. Ruddy, who plays na´ve and innocent Christine Colgate. “The other one is not as classy just starting out. The town isn’t big enough for the two of them. They make a bet to con $50,000 from the ‘American silk queen,’ Christine Colgate. Whoever loses has to leave town.”

She said the production is full of music and comedy.

“It’s funny for everyone. There are little jokes that fly over kids heads, but it adults will get it,” Ms. Ruddy said.

Ms. Ruddy’s fellow cast members and high school seniors Michael J. Cummings, 18, Alyssa M. Ryan, 17, Jacob M. Barney, 17, and Alex V. Hammond, 18, have been working tirelessly on the show for the last three weeks after practice was delayed when the auditorium flooded after December’s ice storm.

But that was no problem for the seasoned cast, many whom have been acting together since middle school.

Ms. Ryan said putting on the spring musical is “stressful, but always fun.”

“The musical is my favorite time of year,” Ms. Ruddy said. “By the end of it, we’re all family.”

The long hours of preparation and weekend practice sometimes gives way to “cabin fever,” Mr. Hammond said, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. He said he will miss participating in the spring musical when he goes to college next year.

Quoting a line from the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Mr. Hammond said, “It was a blast, and it’s a shame it couldn’t last.”


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