Mildred Ruiz-Sapp

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2015

New York, NY & Ashland, OR

Mildred Ruiz-Sapp is an actor, vocalist, poet, and playwright born and raised on the Lower East Side of New York. In 1995, she and her husband, Steven Sapp, co-founded UNIVERSES, a national/international poetic musical theatre ensemble. With UNIVERSES, she has developed and performed in Party People (2012-2014), about former Black Panther and Young Lords members untangling a traumatic past and unclear future; Spring Training (2013), using Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring to explore urban rites of passage; Ameriville (2009-2014), using Hurricane Katrina as an entry point to exploring race, class, poverty, and immigration; and Slanguage (2001- 2009) tracking a unique mix of language and culture that is life on American streets; among other plays. She was a founding team member of THE POINT, a nonprofit, arts and economic development organization revitalizing the South Bronx. Honors include a NEFA National Theater Project grant (2011), an NPN Creation Fund grant (2009), and a Ford Foundation grant (2006). UNIVERSES is the current and first ever Ensemble in Residence at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

  • Credit: Arthur Cohen
    Mildred Ruiz-Sapp
  • Mildred Ruiz-Sapp- “Shadow of Jesus,” Ameriville (2009): /122086264
    “Shadow of Jesus,” Ameriville (2009)
  • Mildred Ruiz-Sapp- “El Velorio,” Ameriville (2009): /122075306
    “El Velorio,” Ameriville (2009)
  • “Omenaje,” Slanguage (2001)
  • “New Orleans,” Ameriville (2009)
  • “BRAVO,” UNIVERSES Live! (Jazz at Lincoln Center, 2008)
  • Credit: Jenny Graham
  • Ameriville (2009)
  • Ameriville (2009)
  • Credit: Michael Ensminger
    Ameriville (2009)

What fuels your impulse to make creative work?

Imagine, if you will, a 13 year old Puerto Rican boy boarding a Pan-American plane, alone, en route to the Main Land USA to work asparagus fields; and later on, age and exhaust himself into driving yellow cabs, cleaning steaming Con-Edison Pipes and Bellevue Hospital bathrooms, all in a days work. Imagine then, a young girl who had been an unpaid child domestic worker in Puerto Rico since the age of nine, being rescued by her brother and later brought to Main Land USA so that she could sing and write her poems of love and pain and dream of a different existence. These are my parents. Always reminding me that the reach of my roots spans this landmass, a sea and an ocean. Their lives and the lives of so many hard working Americans fuel my drive to bring our stories to American Stages. “There is value in who we are.” “Our stories are the truest things we own.”