UA grad turns ugly divorce into a musical hit

2014-05-01T00:00:00Z 2014-07-01T14:14:21Z UA grad turns ugly divorce into a musical hitBy Kathleen Allen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Some say they don’t get mad, they get even.

University of Arizona grad Ruthe Ponturo got both.

Ponturo has received a Drama Desk Award nomination in the “Outstanding Revue” category for her musical piece, “Til Divorce Do We Part.”

“This nomination has put a spring in my step,” she said in a phone interview from her New York City apartment.

The piece, which completed its successful off-Broadway run a few weeks ago, was inspired by Ponturo’s not-too-pleasant divorce.

In 2011, her husband of 34 years, the Broadway producer Tony Ponturo, left her for his much-younger producing partner.

“... It was very shocking,” Ruthe told TheaterMania before her revue opened earlier this year. “And I just started to hear these lyrics in my head, and you know, thought, ‘Huh, I should write this down.’”

And so she did. Ruthe, who has acted, danced, directed, taught and choreographed for more than three decades, had never created a theater piece. Undaunted, she poured all her bitterness, anger and sorrow into songs that would speak to many women and, coincidentally, exact a lovely revenge.

“It’s not bitter or mean,” she says. “It’s about coming through the journey a better person.”

The revue featured 25 songs that Ruthe wrote, working with composer John Thomas Fischer. A sampling of a typical lyric, this from the song “Wedding Vows:” “That brain behind your zipper/Made you a liar and pretty mean/You’d better get Viagra/To fill out those designer jeans.”

“Til Divorce” opened in 2012 at the Triad Theatre on New York City’s upper west side, and in February  moved to the off-Broadway theater DR2 in Union Square. It opened there one day after Tony Ponturo’s “Bronx Bombers” made its Broadway debut. His closed less than a month later, while hers had a healthy three-month run and solid reviews.

“We got a good review in the New York Times, and it appeared in the paper the same day his closing notice did. I think I took way too much pleasure in that.”

While she’s had success, she hasn’t heard a word from her ex about it.

“I haven’t laid eyes on him since September 2011,” she says. “He knows about the show, I know, and was not very happy about it. But I didn’t care.”

Ponturo spent her teen years here, graduated from Palo Verde High School, and received her bachelor’s (1971) and master’s (‘73) degrees in fine arts in theater arts from UA. Her brother Donn Staples and many nieces and nephews call Tucson home, so she makes frequent trips back to the Old Pueblo.

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