The 2019 University of Colorado Opera Gala hosted by the College of Music. (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)

Author: Emily Chesnic

CSF supporter spotlight | Ken and Ruth Wright

For Ken and Ruth Wright, attending the Colorado Shakespeare Festival is synonymous with living in Boulder.

Ken and Ruth moved to Boulder in 1957 and attended a Shakespeare performance on campus that summer. When the Colorado Shakespeare Festival (CSF) officially began in 1958, Ken and Ruth were delighted to buy a subscription, and they haven’t missed a season since.

Ruth, a first generation American from Austrian parents, fondly describes how her physician father talked about the wonder of Shakespeare from his time reading it at the University of Vienna. Although her father actually thought Shakespeare was better in German, Ruth went on to study English in college. Ruth’s appreciation for Shakespeare was already strong when she and Ken stumbled upon what would become the Colorado Shakespeare Festival that first summer, but here is where she truly fell in love with it.

Ken was equally thrilled to discover CSF shortly after moving to Boulder. After living in a remote region overseas for a while, Ken described the Colorado Shakespeare Festival as a feast after years of cultural starvation. Ken also shared that the many seasons of CSF have been eye opening to him in terms of better understanding the life and times of English people from 400 years ago. This is important to him because he is a first generation American from English parents.

Ken and Ruth have shared their love of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival with many friends and family members over the years. Their daughters, Rosemarie and Leslie, grew up learning about Shakespeare by attending preview rehearsal shows at a young age. One warm summer afternoon when Rosemarie was seven, she was walking along one of the sandstone benches during a rehearsal in the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre. She became so entranced by a particularly animated speech from Ricky Weiser that she fell and gashed her forehead on the sharp stone edge. As soon as Rosemarie cried out, Ricky leaped off the stage and ran to Rosemarie to comfort her and press a handkerchief to her wound. This miraculously stopped Rosemarie’s crying, but it then took another 20 minutes for the rehearsal to get back on track.

Many CSF actors have grown accustomed to seeing Ken and Ruth’s faces throughout the seasons, thanks to their specific seating preference. Despite the fact that many theatre critics will claim the best view in the house is never in the very front, Ken and Ruth are committed to their front row seats. They love to be up close and personal with the drama and action. As Ruth describes it, “We like to see the spittle coming out of the actors’ mouths.”

Not only are Ken and Ruth some of the longest attending subscribers to CSF, they are also loyal donors. When asked about why they first decided to begin making financial contributions to CSF, Ruth said, “We just wanted to be sure the festival kept on going.” Ken and Ruth recognize the significant value CSF brings to Boulder, and they want to ensure this unique treasure remains a part of the community for as long as possible.

In addition to their generous annual donations to CSF, Ken’s company Wright Water Engineers is a corporate sponsor of the festival. The Colorado Shakespeare Festival has been especially important to Wright Water Engineers, thanks to their annual company picnic. Every year, employees gather for a picnic in the Shakespeare Gardens before attending a performance together in the Rippon. The evening is filled with laughter, connection and good food, setting the stage for a perfect live Shakespeare experience. Ken refers to this as the company’s “annual cultural boost.” Earlier this year, when the 2020 season was postponed, Ken and Ruth did not hesitate to donate the full value of Wright Water Engineers’ sponsorship for the year, as a way of recognizing how much CSF means to them, even without the sponsorship benefits.

After only a few moments of speaking with Ken and Ruth, it becomes clear that they view their donations as an organic extension of the CSF experience. For them, when you love something as much as they love CSF, you do what you can to make sure it thrives. Ken and Ruth’s humble attitude toward their financial support of the festival is not only a testament to their love of CSF but also their innately generous spirit, which can be seen in everything they’ve done as proud Boulder community members for the last 60+ years.

In the same way that CSF helped shape Ken and Ruth Wright’s life in Boulder, their passion and generosity has carved a place in the history of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.

Give to the Colorado Shakespeare Festival

The Colorado Shakespeare Festival is a professional theatre in residence at the University of Colorado. The university provides space for CSF and covers a small part of other expenses, but the festival is, in the main, self-sustaining. Gifts are essential to the festival’s existence, and we very much appreciate your financial support. Your gift helps support artists’ wages; equipment for lighting, sound, costume construction, and crew safety; education and outreach efforts, and more.

Thank you for supporting the arts!

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