George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

School of Theater Alumni Inspire Pockets of Change

August 15, 2016   /   by Jamie Rogers

Ruthie Rado’s first taste of theater didn’t go too well.

Her mom saved up money to buy tickets to take a three-year-old Ruthie to see the national tour of Beauty and the Beast. “Thirty seconds into the show, I said, ‘Mommy, I don’t like this. Can we go?’ And we left!” says Rado, BA Theater ’14.

Twenty years later she has more appreciation for the arts, and she’s using her own “pocket change” to give children a memorable theater experience.

Together with Mason alumni Collin Riley and David Johnson, the Springfield native formed the Pocket Change Theatre Company while she was still attending Mason. Mason’s School of Theater even acted as an incubator for the company by allowing the group to use one of its stages for their first performances.

College of Visual and Performing Arts dean Rick Davis suggested the name for the company, which carries a dual meaning.

“It means we have a very small budget,” says Rado, who serves as artistic director of the company. “But it also means we want to create local pockets of creative change in the community.”

Pocket Change performs its shows in unconventional settings to give a play context. Los Dos Burritos, for instance, a bilingual show about a donkey that gets confused with a burrito [burrito means “little donkey” in Spanish], will be performed at food trucks, restaurants, and preschools. Rado also performs in the group’s Shakespeare on a Playground series, which makes theater accessible to those who may not have the means or the time to see performances in a traditional setting.

“I remembered how musty Shakespeare seemed when I was a kid,” she says. “There had to be a way to make that classical language less intimidating. We had to perform in a space with no expectations, just fun. A playground is that creative, safe space.”

Shakespeare is a part of her day job too. She is a graphic design fellow at the Shakespeare Theatre Company. And understanding how one of D.C.’s major theater companies is run helps her grow Pocket Change.

“[We do] stories [children] can relate to—not stories about a far away land, but everyday life,” she says. “They don’t have to be a dragon or a princess. They see that their lives can be extraordinary.”

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