It's not easy to hush the Ostrander's crowd. Accustomed to being on stage, rather than in the audience, the actors, dancers, singers, and musicians gathered for Memphis' annual theater awards barely know how to act when the spotlight's on somebody else. But Ruby O'Gray brought the whole house — drag queens and all — to total pin-drop silence when determination spread across her face and she rose from her wheelchair in the middle of the Orpheum stage. "I think everybody thought I was going to go back to the microphone and say something," O'Gray says, recalling the moment. She should have taken a bow, at least. But instead she defiantly yanked a bit of her gown from under the front wheel of the chair, and sat back down again to be taken off stage. To nobody's surprise, it was the evening's most compelling performance.
- Don Perry
- Ruby O’Gray (right) at the Ostrander Awards
O'Gray is an actor with an enviable resume, a resourceful director, and a playwright with more than 70 scripts under her belt. She's also an independent producer who's seen to it that most of those scripts have been given the chance to get up on their feet and walk around. She saw her first show at Memphis' storied Front St. Theatre when she was only 7 years old and has worked with Beale Street Repertory Theatre, Playhouse on the Square, and other regional institutions. But she's always taken less-traveled roads, making a home just outside the mainstream, bridging gaps, and building community. For her work as an independent producer with Bluff City Tri-Art Theatre Company and the bi-annual Women's Theatre Festival, O'Gray was honored with the Janie McCrary Putting It Together award — an award that might as well have been created with Ruby O'Gray in mind.
This week, O'Gray's children's play The Strange Case of Mr. Wolf opens at the Evergreen Theatre. The inverted fairy tale asks why the big bad wolf was so big and bad, making a case for not taking everything you hear at face value.