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Work Samples


DEADLY a critically acclaimed martial arts tour de force from long-time collaborators composer Fred Ho and playwright Ruth Margraff. The world premier at La MaMa ETC Ellen Stewart Theater in association with Crossing Jamaica Avenue May 16-June 2, 2013 (NYC) dazzled with ferocity and skill. Director Sonoko Kawahara pays homage to Kozure Ogami’s 1970s Japanese raging cult film and TV hit, “Lone Wolf and Cub” with an expansive story and daring fight choreography.

MIRROR BUTTERFLY "Stoneflower Requiem" by the Afro Yaqui Music Collective

MIRROR BUTTERFLY: a migration liberation suite w/Afro Yaqui Music Collective/Innova Records (Pittsburgh). Premiered at New Hazlett Theater Oct 11-12, 2018 (Pittsburgh) and Kennedy Center Millenium Stage November 23, 2018 (Washington DC); developed by Nov 4, 2018 National Ensemble Theater conference plenary performance (Tucson); NPN showcase Dec 14-15, 2018 (Pittsburgh); at the 1st Mesopotamian Water Forum Apr 6-8, 2019 (Kurdistan, Iraq); and released on Innova Records at Red Rooster/Ginny's Supper Club (Harlem); on Aug 3, 2019.

ANGER/FLY with painting details from "Temptation of the Fresh Voluptuous" (Trap Door Theater, Chicago USA)

Stills and video from live performance of ANGER/FLY at Trap Door Theater 2012, Chicago, USA written by Ruth Margraff, after Eugene Ionesco's film scenario La Colere directed by Kate Hendrickson. ANGER/FLY was commissioned by an Individual Artist Project grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

THREE GRACES a panoramic Iliad for the protestors of modern Greece and Turkey

~ THREE GRACES ~a panoramic Iliad for the protestors of modern Greece and Turkey. 2014 Laguardia Performing Arts Center dir. Handan Ozbilgin (NYC) 2013 Pivot Multi-Arts Festival/Loyola University dir. Kate Hendrickson (Chicago) 2012 ProjectX/CentralTrak Gallery workshop with dir. Raphael Parry (Dallas) 2011 Ice Factory Festival at 3LD/Immigrants Theater Project dir.


About Ruth

Baltimore City

Ruth Margraff's picture
RUTH MARGRAFF has been called a leader in the American avant garde for her “audaciously original" (Moscow Times) use of lyric language that provides “layer after layer of richly textured emotion...and imminent danger” (Dallas Morning News). Critically acclaimed for writing martial arts operas DEADLY SHE-WOLF ASSASSIN AT ARMAGEDDAN and a VOICE OF THE DRAGON trilogy with the late composer Fred Ho for the Apollo, Guggenheim Museum, LaMama, Brooklyn Academy of Music and a commercially successful tour... more


TEMPTATION: CHORA is a dialogue of poem objects. 
It has been staged as a live performance for theater and gallery spaces, has been exhibited Aug 30-Dec 4, 2022 as an installation at the SAIC Triennial, and received a Mass MoCA studios residency Jan 4-17, 2023.  Accompanying pillow book and album are forthcoming.  Text, vocals, art, installation and music by Ruth Margraff.  Special thanks to development direction by Beth Milles, guitar: Ignatius Valentine Aloysius, violin: Beltran Del Campo, design consultant: Anka Lupes Created for the International Nišville Jazz Theatre Festival August 6-9 2017 (Serbia).  Rehearsed at Red Tape Theater/Art Institute Ballroom (Chicago), and presented in a concert version at Coe Marquis Series Sinclair Stage Mar 14-18, 2019 (Iowa)--tracks are being recorded at the Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago for release by MI Records.  

MIRROR BUTTERFLY a migration liberation suite (Innova Records)

MIRROR BUTTERFLY is a jazz opera that unites the music and stories of climate refugees from Mexico, Syria, and West Africa. Performed by the Afro Yaqui Music Collective, an indigenous-jazz band led by Gizelxanath Rodriguez and Ben Barson with Samuel Okoh-Boateng featuring interviews with former Black Panther Mama C exiled in Tanzania, Wanlove a kubolor from Ghana, and Azize an activist working with Syrian Rojava and Mexican Zapatistas. MIRROR BUTTERFLY premiered at New Hazlett Theater Oct 11-12, 2018 (Pittsburgh)  and Kennedy Center Millenium Stage November 23, 2018  (Washington DC); developed by Nov 4, 2018 National Ensemble Theater conference plenary performance (Tucson); NPN showcase Dec 14-15, 2018 (Pittsburgh); at the 1st Mesopotamian Water Forum Apr 6-8, 2019 (Kurdistan, Iraq); and released on Innova Records at Red Rooster/Ginny's Supper Club (Harlem); on Aug 3, 2019.  Excerpts featured on howlround, the New Sounds playlist, on 91.3 WYEP Aug 27, 2019 with interview on the revolutionary responsibility of being an artist and partnership with the Yaqui Námakasia Radio, which receives all CD sales, and The National Jazz Museum in Harlem on October 3, 2019 as part of the Jazz and Social Justice salon and at Jazz Ready/AnchorFM. 



libretto for Peggy Choy Dance Co. Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts (NYC) Oct 20-22, 2019; H'Doubler Theater (Madison, Wisconsin) Oct 31-Nov 2, 2019; And poem WILD RICE: March 12, 2015 UWisconsin/Native Nations Summit Environment&Health Fluno Center; Oct 10-12, 2014 Links Hall for Choy's "River Mouth Ocean" (Chicago); photo: Andy Toad


six tableaux vivant of real Courtesans from 1850s
Mar 23, 2018 Art Institute Ballroom (Chicago) w/composer Phil Fried; Developed April 20-21, 2015 "Nautilus Rough Cuts" (St. Paul, MN)and Augsburg College Music Building (Minneapolis); Nov 6, 2014 at Zeitgeist's New Music Cabaret /Nautilus and Sept 8, 2013 Opera On Tap Twin Cities (Mpls).

PASSION OF LEYLA (opera rehearsal)

a Sufi-inspired opera w/composer Richard Marriott August 16-21, 2016 San Jose Stage Company (CA) awarded a National Endowment for the Arts "Artworks" commission; May 28, 2014 Theatre Association of Russia at the Boyarskiye Palaty (Moscow, Russia) dir Andrey Lyubimov (Aparte Theater); 2013 Link's Hall Shapiro Ctr w/Ta'ziyeh expert Mohammad Ghaffari. 


an avant musical devised from an 1980s episode of the iconic TV series FANTASY ISLAND about the pleasures and perils of wish fulfillment with a ventriloquist dummy. Commissioned by Trap Door Theater (Chicago).  Premiered Sept 29-Nov 5, 2016 at Trap Door Theater dir Kate Hendrickson following our acclaimed 2012 production of ANGER/FLY (Chicago) 


~ SEVEN the play~has been performed in more than 30 countries, translated into 20 languages, now touring 27 venues nationwide (LA Theatre Works).  SEVEN is published by Dramatists Play Service, Inc. including Ruth's “Night Wind” a monologue for Farida Azizi for SEVEN the play cowritten with Anna Deavere Smith, Paula Cizmar, Catherine Filloux, Gail Kriegel, Carol K. Mack and Susan Yankowitz, | Documentary | Full Length | 7 women| Flexible Set| A collaboration of seven award-winning women playwrights, SEVEN

ISBN: 978-0-8222-2351-1 ©2009

PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE SEVEN 2019-2020 Tour October 12, 2019 David & Dorthea Garfield Theatre - Lawrence Family Jewish Comm. Center – La Jolla, CA October 16, 2019 Kenan Auditorium - University of North Carolina - Wilmington, NC October 18, 2019 Center for the Arts - George Mason University - Fairfax, VA October 19, 2019 K.S. Gross Aud. - Carver Hall - Bloomsburg University - Bloomsburg, PA October 22, 2019 Rudder Theatre - Texas A & M University - College Station, TX October 24, 2019 Theater at Raritan Valley Comm. College - Branchburg, NJ October 26-27, 2019 Queens Theatre - Flushing, NY October 30, 2019 Modlin Center - University of Richmond - Richmond, VA February 22, 2020 Knickerbocker Theater - Hope College - Holland, MI February 25, 2020 Hall Auditorium - Miami University of Ohio - Oxford, OH February 28-29, 2020 Miller Center for the Arts - Reading Area Community College - Reading, PA March 1, 2020 Rose Lehrman Arts Center – HACC – Harrisburg, PA March 3-4, 2020 Wright Memorial Theatre – Middlebury College – Middlebury, VT March 7-8, 2020 Rinker Playhouse – Kravis Center – West Palm Beach, FL March 11, 2020 Page Theatre – Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota – Winona, MN March 13, 2020 Sheldon Mainstage Theatre – Red Wing, MN March 14, 2020 Stephen B. Humphrey Theater – Saint John’s University – Collegeville, MN March 16-17, 2020 O’Shaughnessy Auditorium – Saint Catherine’s University – St. Paul, MN March 18-19, 2020 Historic Holmes Theatre – Detroit Lakes, MN March 21, 2020 Halbritter Center – Juniata College – Huntingdon, PA March 24, 2020 Schaefer Center Auditorium – Appalachian State University – Boone, NC March 26, 2020 NC State LIVE – North Carolina State University – Raleigh, NC March 28, 2020 Fife Theatre – Moss Arts Center – Virginia Tech – Blacksburg, VA March 30-31, 2020 John C. Evans Hall – Connecticut College – New London, CT April 2, 2020 Zeiterion Performing Arts Center – New Bedford, MA April 5-6, 2020 Performing Arts Center – University of Albany – Albany, NY April 7, 2020 Howard Auditorium – Louisiana Technical University – Ruston, LA

VOICE OF THE DRAGON 2: Shaolin Secret Stories (Apollo Theater, NYC)

VOICE OF THE DRAGON 2: Shaolin Secret Stories (Apollo Theater, NYC) Written by Ruth Margraff with composer Fred Ho, directed by Terry O'Reilly, martial arts choreography by Jose Figueroa, vocals by Marina Celander 

one of  6 martial arts operas created by Ruth Margraff & Fred Ho 1997-2014 see

DEADLY SHE-WOLF ASSASSIN AT ARMAGEDDAN (A SWORD BALLET) May 16-June 2, 2013 Ellen Stewart LaMama Theater (NYC); June 24-25, 2006 Mandel Theater @ Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA; April 29-30, 2005 NYSCA Individual Artist grant for The Japan Society city wide exhibit “Cool Japan: Otaku Strikes!”, choreography by Spinnin Ronin’s Tsuyoshi Kaseda, dir. Sonoko Kawahara with martial artists (NYC)

VOICE OF THE DRAGON 3: DRAGON VS. EAGLE commissioned by Rockefeller Foundation & Peregrine Arts, 2008 Brooklyn Academy of Music workshop and January & June, 2007 at the Apollo Theater (NYC)
VOICE OF THE DRAGON 2: SHAOLIN SECRET STORIES…(A MARTIAL ARTS EPIC PREQUEL) 2004 Apollo Theater/Mary Flagler Cary Trust/Caribbean Cultural Council/ICM Artists/World Music Institute commission for prequel Shaolin Secret Stories at Apollo Theater acclaimed by New York Times (NYC)
2002-2003 Columbia Arts Management, Inc./Big Red Media, Inc. North American tour to following Performing Arts Centers in 33+ cities: Hancher Auditorium Iowa City, IA; New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newport Performing Arts Center, Newport, OR; Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland, OR; Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center for the Arts, Eugene, OR; Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis, Davis, CA; Van Duzer Theater, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA; Center Theater, California Center for the Arts, Escondido, CA; Riverside Municipal Auditorium, Univ. of Calif., Riverside, CA; McCallum Theater for the Performing Arts, Palm Desert, CA; Smothers Theater, Seaver College of Pepperdine Univ, Malibu, CA; Scottsdale Center for the Arts, Scottsdale, AZ; Beckman Auditorium, Calif. Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA; Carver Community Cultural Center, Lila Cockrell Theater, San Antonio, TX; Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, Appleton, WI; Pabst Center, Milwaukee, WI; Power Center, Ann Arbor, MI; Southern Theater, Columbus, OH; Vern Riffe Center, Portsmouth, OH; Chicago Theater, Chicago, IL; Ford Theater, Honeywell Center, Wabash, IN; Zellerbach Theater, Annenberg Center, Univ. of Penn., Philadelphia, PA; Palace Theatre, Stamford Center for the Arts, Stamford, CT; Tilles Center for the Arts, Brookville, NY; John Harms Center for the Arts, Englewood, NJ; Colonial Theater, Keene, NH; Cubb Theater, Capitol Center for the Arts, Concord, NH; Garde Arts Center, New London, CT; Jorgensen Auditorium, Univ. of CT, Storrs, CT; Community Theater, Morristown, NJ; Center for the Arts Concert Hall, George Mason Univ., Fairfax, VA; Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts, Richmond, VA; Shubert Theater, New Haven, CT; etc. 2003 Bronx Museum excerpts (New York); 2001 Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 2001 Next Wave Festival/Harvey Theater, Nov. 7-11, dir. Mira Kingsley, chor. Jose Figueroa Afro-Asian Music Ensemble (Brooklyn);  2001 Seattle Repertory Bagley Wright Theater May 12-19 (Seattle);  2001 Northeastern University Center for the Arts August 18 (Boston) 2000 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Peter B. Lewis Theater (NY); 1999 The Guggenheim Museum, Peter B. Lewis Theater, prod. Mary Sharp Cronson and PBS' "Eye on Dance" Celia Ipiotis (NY); 1999 John Harms Center for the Arts, JVC Jazz Festival (New Jersey)

2002 Symphony Space w/World Music Institute (NY); 2001 Brooklyn Academy of Music Café: concert (NY); 2000 HERE Arts Ctr, dir. Tim Maner; 2000 Public Theater Joe's Pub; 2000 Epistrophy Arts/Sri Atmananda Memorial Hall, (Austin); 1999 Cooper Union Great Hall w/Dr. Sa'di Al-Hadithi, recording Avatar Studio C; 1998-99 funded by Rockefeller Foundation, Jerome Foundation, NEA, and NYSCA; 1998 Joseph Papp Public Theater “New Work Now” Festival;1998 New York Theater Workshop reading,1998 Audrey Skirball-Kenis’ Spring Retreat (LA)

See--> 2:49 min. excerpt of VOICE OF THE DRAGON 2: Shaolin Secret Stories with photos from live performance at the Apollo theater soundstage here: including track: "Li Wen Mao, The Peking Opera Orphan." The narrator’s vocal is recitative in vowels that extend in a Peking opera style of English. She inhabits the subjectivity of all the characters of the story, much like the chorus in Japanese Noh plays.

THE NEW YORK TIMES Arts Section Opera Review
"Crouching Leopard, Somersaulting Dragon"
Published: January 10, 2004

Long before martial-arts acrobatics became a staple of action movies, they were part of Chinese opera, and the composer and baritone saxphonist Fred Ho has decided they can be at the center of an American opera as well. His ''Voice of the Dragon 2: Shaolin Secret Stories'' is an opera without songs. But it has plenty of jazzy music from Mr. Ho's sextet, the Afro Asian Music Ensemble, and a nearly nonstop display of leaping, punching, somersaulting, pole-twirling, sword-wielding combat, choreographed for a dozen martial artists by Jose Figueroa. Its world premiere was presented by the World Music Institute's Interpretations series on Thursday night at Soundstage at the Apollo Theater, the small upstairs space at 253 West 125th Street in Harlem, where it continues through tonight.

''Voice of the Dragon'' tells tales of the Shaolin Temple, the cradle of Chinese martial arts, and Mr. Ho plans to make it a trilogy. The first part, ''Once Upon a Time in Chinese America . . . The Martial Arts Epic,'' was presented in 2001 and depicted a battle at the temple against a traitorous female warrior, Gar Man Jang.

''Secret Stories'' is the prequel: coming-of-age stories for Gar Man Jang (played by Soomi Kim) and the Shaolin heroes who will go on to fight her. It is told, like the first installment, in narration written by Mr. Ho and Ruth Margraff that was delivered with melodramatic relish by an elegantly costumed narrator (Marina Celander); it was directed by Terry O'Reilly. The narrator shifted between high-flown storytelling and slangy retold dialogue, with glints of humor, while the martial artists rocketed across the stage.

''Secret Stories'' is about loyalty and self-renewal. Like the X-Men, the Shaolin heroes have varied talents. One has a crouching, feral attack because he was raised by leopards. One specializes in blades, one in wooden sticks, one in theatrical flamboyance. Each comes to a monastery as an orphan or outcast, chafes at the discipline but eventually accepts the teachings of the masters. As heroes in training, Tom Kaseda, Philip Silvera, Sekou and Scott Parker all made quick transitions from feigned clumsiness to taut precision.

There's also a girl, Ng Mui (Mei-Chiao Chiu), who grins and pouts with rubber-faced glee as she grows increasingly skillful. Gar Man Jang turns from Ng Mui's mentor to her jealous and vicious opponent, and as ''Secret Stories'' ends, Gar Man Jang and the narrator merge, moving in tandem and vowing to defy even the moon and sun.

Mr. Ho's music provided vamps and themes for each character, and it worked more as soundtrack and atmosphere than as foreground music. He often used closely harmonized saxophones akin to Charles Mingus's arrangements, but when melodies emerged, they often hinted at Chinese modes, and Royal Hartigan deployed Chinese cymbals, gongs and woodblocks alongside jazz drums. It was burly, foreboding music, using shifting meters to keep the tunes off balance and provide subliminal tension.

As a jazzy martial-arts pageant, it orchestrated some impressive razzle-dazzle.

  • VOD2 Shaolin Secret Stories.jpg

    Voice of the Dragon 2: SHAOLIN SECRET STORIES at the Apollo Theater (NYC) Music and Concept by Fred Ho Written by Ruth Margraff and Fred Ho Directed by Terry O’Reilly Martial Arts Choreography by Jose Figueroa Lighting by Ric Rogers and Production Head of Staging by Wilbur Graham, Jr. Costumes by Nisara Thummamitra Production Stage Managed and Technical Direction by Steve Carlino Audio Engineering by Anthony Robinson Directorial Assistance by Melissa Shaw Puppet Design and Construction by Tom Lee Produced by Big Red Media, Inc.
  • VOICE OF THE DRAGON 1 on Innova Records

    libretto by Ruth Margraff and Fred Ho VOICE OF THE DRAGON 1...aka ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINESE AMERICA 2002-2003 Columbia Arts Management, Inc./Big Red Media, Inc.


2:00 minutes CENTAUR BATTLE OF SAN JACINTO by Ruth Margraff

directed by Ralph Pena, music by Nikos Brisco stills from Fordham/Lincoln Center production October 4-12, 2012  soundtrack: "Arrow Willow for Crazy Horse" warcry sung by Nikos Brisco Joey Mendoza is set designer; Becky Bodurtha is costume designer; Chad McArver is lighting designer; David Van Tieghem is sound designer; and Tim Zay is fight choreographer. The Fordham College Theater Program at Lincoln Center, which is chaired by two-time Obie Award-winning actor and director Matthew Maguire, opens its newest season, tackling extremism as theme, with the New York premiere of Ruth Margraff’s “Centaur Battle of San Jacinto” (an extended barroom brawl) at Pope Auditorium at Fordham College, 113 West 60th Street at Columbus Ave. NYC Directed by another Obie Award-winning director Ralph Peña, "'Centaur Battle...' is an abstraction on the events and the historical figures surrounding the fateful Battle of San Jacinto (1836), in which General Sam Houston and the Texan army won nearly one million square miles of territory for the United States from Mexico by slaughtering 630 Mexicans in 18 minutes, ignoring repeated orders to ceasefire," according to the show's production notes. “Centaur Battle...” dissects, explodes, examines, and questions the universal themes of masculinity, leadership, and the eternal human tendency towards extreme violence. Its cast, playing multiple roles, include Anna Crivelli, Quinn Coughlin, Dan Kleinmann, Marshal Thurman, Tom Feeney, and Emily Stout. full video archive available at Fordham University Libraries here:,333


STADIUM DEVILDARE is published in Ruth Margraff's RED FROGS & OTHER PLAYS collection of plays No Passport Press October, 2012.  Produced at Red Tape Theater in Chicago January 17-February 24, 2013

at Theater of Note (Los Angeles) and Rude Mechanicals (Austin).
  • STADIUM DEVILDARE Rude Mechanicals (Austin, TX)

    STADIUM DEVILDARE is published in Ruth Margraff's RED FROGS & OTHER PLAYS collection of plays No Passport Press October, 2012. This new edition of the play will be produced at Red Tape Theater in Chicago January 17-February 24, 2013 and has been produced previously at Theater of Note (Los Angeles) and Rude Mechanicals (Austin).
  • Stadium Devildare, Red Tape Theatre--Karen Yates, director

    Scene excerpt from Red Tape Theatre's production of Ruth Margraff's play, Stadium Devildare--Chicago, 2013, Karen Yates, director. Stadium Devildare chronicles the contestants of a reality game show set in a war zone. Referencing the military-industrial complex and mashing it with anime and the Godzilla franchise, Stadium comments on America's war machine in poetic and abstract language. In this production, all show games were devised by Yates and the ensemble. With Carrie Drapac, Nick Combs, Matt Gellin, Andy Lutz, Julian Hester, Mark Penzien, Sabrina Conti, Bryan Bosque.
  • STADIUM DEVILDARE a new reality program for American arenas

    production stills from Los Angeles premiere at Theater of Note (Hollywood) Feb-Mar 2008, written by Ruth Margraff, directed by Rich Werner, music by Joshua Fardon, featuring performers: David Bickford, Hiwa Bourne, Justin Brinsfield, Sofie Calderon, Lisa Clifton, Jennifer Ann Evans, Jonathan Klein, Elizabeth Liang, Sarah Lilly, Rich PierreLouis and Gina Garcia Sharp, photos by P. Gref, edited by R. Margraff with Mark Siska studio 207 (Chicago), commissioned originally by Rude Mechanicals (Austin, TX) and an TCG/NEA extended collaboration grant