Trevor Rueger was once all about numbers but found his calling in the performing arts

Trevor Rueger, 41, an executive director for the Alberta Playwrights’ Network, has been acting, writing and directing for the past 23 years of his life.

When you see Rueger on stage wearing his Roman dress on the Monday night episodes of Dirty Laundry Season XII: Ancient Rome, he is bouncing off the walls as he plays Herpes, Messenger of The Gods.

Surprisingly however, at age 18, Rueger entered into the education program at the University of Calgary planning to become a math teacher. At the time he felt that it would be a stable career choice.

During his university years, a professor noticed Rueger’s passion and talent when he took a first-year acting class. The professor assumed that he was in the drama department and asked him how the rest of his drama classes were going.

After telling the professor that he was actually a math student, Rueger was told that he should be studying drama instead.

“I changed my degree to drama the next day,” Rueger said. “I’m glad I went into acting instead as it’s something I’m incredibly passionate about.”

While studying, he filled the rest of his time by working for two theatre companies – Aurora Stage Productions — now known as Shadow Productions — and Pleiades Theatre, known as Vertigo Theatre today.

The hands-on experience as an actor helped him learn what would be involved to make it in theatre.

“I had a bit of a leg up when making the transition from university to the professional world,” Rueger said. “Throughout my career, I have been given lots of opportunities, and have had great mentors and friends.”

When Rueger directed the play, “When Girls Collide,” he worked alongside Laura Parken and Karen Johnson-Diamond.

Parken met Rueger in the mid ’90s through the Calgary Theatre Company when she acted alongside him.

“I first knew him as an actor. We acted in a play called ‘Investigations of a Dog.’ It was fun working with him,” Parken said.

“He is very generous and has a great ability for comedy. He knows how to find the nugget of a comic moment and can build up to it.

“I can go up on stage in front of 100 strangers, goof off, take risks and in some cases make a fool out of myself,” Rueger said. “But to stand up in front of your peers is a completely different sensation.”
—Trevor Rueger executive director for Alberta Playwrights’ Network

“He knows what he’s doing.”

Johnson-Diamond, an actress who works alongside Rueger in the popular Dirty Laundry seasons, met Rueger when she joined Shadow Productions in 1998.

“I was nervous about making new connections, being a new member of the Calgary theatre community, but Trevor was 100 per cent welcoming and inclusive,” Johnson-Diamond said.

She remembers working with Rueger when the scene was set in a 1960s advertising agency. He played the copy boy and she played the secretary.

“My fondest memory is when his character took mine home to meet his mother, and she had been dead for nine years,” Johnson-Diamond said.

“He introduced me to her corpse.”

His experience in both the theatre world and the Alberta Playwrights’ Network has helped him to be a mentor as well.

Michelle Kneale, a resident playwright for Alberta Playwrights’ Network, appreciates Rueger.

She has known him for five years and has received helpful mentorship from him.

“He has been there to help me work out lots of scenarios in my own career path and he’s been a great support of mine throughout the last few years,” Kneale said.

Rueger has also enjoyed performing theatre for young audiences and has done a number of shows for Quest Theatre and Shadow Productions.

He successfully wrote three theatrical plays – “Red Riding In The Hood,” “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Making It All Up” – for young audiences.

“These scripts are about morality, solving a problem and being proactive,” Rueger said.

He said that writing for children proves to be more of a challenge than writing for adults.

“Their imaginations are much more active and in a lot of cases, they have no forgiveness. If they don’t like it, they don’t like it.

“With adult audiences, you’re dealing with a higher level of sophistication, bigger ideas and you’re asking bigger questions.”

Betty Mitchell Award

Winning a Betty Mitchell Award last year caught Rueger by surprise.

Trevor Rueger has been writing and producing the Betty Mitchell Awards for the past 12 years. He hosted the show in August 2009 and was a recipient in 2011.
Photo by: Jasmine Han

Standing in front of an audience of 300 to 400 people to accept recognition for his accomplishments took him out of his comfort zone.

“I can go up on stage in front of 100 strangers, goof off, take risks and in some cases make a fool out of myself,” Rueger said. “But to stand up in front of your peers is a completely different sensation.

“I was queasy and thought ‘I can’t believe they picked me. I was nominated in a group of incredibly talented actors.’”

The humble actor has been married for 13 years to Shari Wattling — an artistic associate and literary manager at Theatre Calgary. The two met in university and have been together throughout his entire theatrical journey.

jhan@calgaryjournal.ca

Correction: Trevor Rueger’s name was misspelled in the pullquote. We apologize for the error.