Community Spotlight: John Rutherford

By Ginny Butsch posted 09-04-2018 10:42


One of the main goals for our Theatre Education Community is to help theatre students and professionals from all over connect and identify with each other in order to build resources and support the theatre education field. We shine a spotlight on a different member every other week by conducting a simple interview.


Our next spotlight is John Rutherford, the theatre teacher and troupe director at Wylie E. Groves High School (Troupe 2296) in Beverly Hills, Michigan. John has taught theatre for over 25 years and serves on the Michigan Thespians board. With such extensive experience, he often has just the right answer for fellow Community members.


What does a typical day look like for you?


5:30 Awake time.

6:30 Head out the door.

7:10 Arrive at school.

7:30 Start teaching.

10:30-3:00 Finish teaching. Transition to my second role as teacher coach.

3:05-6:00 Rehearsal for the play/musical/forensic team.

6:00-6:30 Lock doors and turn off lights, etc. Leave for home.

7:10. Arrive home, eat some dinner. Help one of my three daughters with homework or pick them up from one of their activities. Check email. Talk to my wife. Plan for the next day.

10:00 Go to bed.

 The Last Lifeboat (Spring 2017)


Tell us about the best day of your career.


I used to teach a class that would rotate its focus every 3 years. One year the focus was on playwriting. I decided that, rather than have students write their own short plays, we would combine our efforts and write one full-length play. That was no easy task with 25 different students contributing, but in the end, we finished the play. Four years later, I decided to produce it as our spring play and invited back the former students who were the authors. Prior to the performance, I lead a conversation between the alumni and the cast that was truly amazing for me to witness. It was the first time I really saw how my program developed and maintained well-rounded theatre artists. (Eldridge Publishing Company publishes it, The Catch).

 John with students, celebrating a grant from MEEMIC Insurance Company to support the theatre department


What was the first role you ever played?


The first play I was ever part of was a middle school production called The Bad Children. I was in 7th grade (my first year of junior high) and I was cast as the understudy for the role of Hansel. I was so excited to be the understudy for the leading role (I did not realize until later that I would never be on stage or in any of the performances). I still loved the comradery and socializing with the entire cast, plus we had an awesome bakery across the street that sold homemade doughnuts for .15 cents. The best part was that I was needed as a stage brace for the gingerbread house that would fall over whenever the door opened. So, for much of the play, I made sure the house didn’t fall over, but Hansel and Gretel would give me their gingerbread men and I would spend the rest of the performance munching on those cookies, so it wasn’t all bad.

 Groves High School’s production of The Pirates of Penzance (Fall 2017)


Name something on your bucket list.


I am huge fan of parades. I love all parades. Not sure why, but I do. So, one of the items on my bucket list is to go to New York City and view the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thanksgiving morning. An even bigger thrill would actually be part of the parade. To have such dreams.


What is your proudest accomplishment?


In 2007, I was nominated and won the Michigan Governor’s Award for Arts Educator (aka the Guvvy). This was the first time the award was granted to a theatre teacher in the State of Michigan. The thing that made it so special is that I actually did not do anything special to win it. I was just doing my job as theatre teacher at W.E. Groves High School. It was exciting to realize that people thought what I just did as part of my teaching and directing routine was considered special and worthy of this unique recognition.

 It Was a Dark and Stormy Night (Spring 2018)


If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?


Europe. Probably Scotland. It is so beautiful and I love the aesthetic with the scenery, music, history and the people. I have been there twice and both times, I felt like I was at home. Every year I force my students to listen to the song, “Scotland the Brave,” when we study Macbeth and talk about how I feel the song in my bones. Most of the students groan and roll their eyes. I feel so inspired by the song that I usually spend the rest of the day in the best mood.


If you enjoyed John’s interview as much as we did, add him as a contact in the Community.


Do you know someone who deserves a moment in the Spotlight? Tell me their name and why at Want to read more Community Spotlights? You can find them here.