Roger Rueff ’78, MS ’83, PhD ’85
When I left Mines with the Ph.D. in 1985, I began working for Amoco Oil Company (now BP) at its research facility in Naperville, Illinois. One of my co-workers was CPR-alum Mark Furlong — who, oddly enough, was leaving Mines with his own Ph.D. in 1981 just as I was returning to grad school from working for Marathon Oil Company in Louisiana. In fact, the grad student office I moved into in Alderson Hall was the one he had just vacated, and he is the one who recruited me several years later to work at Amoco.
I knew that Mark acted in community theatre as a hobby, and I’d been thinking of trying my hand at it, too, so one afternoon when he was in my office, I asked him to let me know when he heard of auditions for any new show. As it happened, there was an audition that very night for a production of “The Lion in Winter.” I auditioned and won the role of Geoffrey, the middle son, who mostly is called on to brood. In working on that production, however, I discovered what I felt was an intuitive understanding of stage work and dramatic writing — so I started reading and, eventually, trying to write plays.
A few years later, I became involved at a play/playwright development organization in Chicago called Chicago Dramatists. During a playwriting workshop there, I met a young director who liked my work and who (I didn’t know at the time) was a friend of Kevin Spacey. Unbeknownst to me, he sent Kevin my recently penned play, “Hospitality Suite.” Kevin liked it and set up a reading at the Manhattan Theatre Club. They didn’t produce it, but that got me a New York agent, who sent the play to South Coast Repertory Theatre (SCR), where it premiered in 1992. SCR produced another play of mine in 1993, which is when I decide to take the leap and change course, come what may.
A few years later, Kevin called me to propose the idea of producing the play as a film, which I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to adapt as “The Big Kahuna,” starring him and Danny DeVito. Because the film has been shown across the world, it has drawn attention to the play (thanks to double-title-card credit), and I’ve been fortunate enough to have a number of foreign productions, some of which I’ve been able to attend — which, in turn, has led to a number of European business contacts and an agent headquartered in Rome.
In the years-long meantime, to address the more practical aspects of making a living, I developed a freelance business writing and communications business, which runs the gamut, such as it is, from video scripts and technical documentation development to business theatre.