Position: Associate Professor, Theatre
Location: Ruebush Hall, Room 127-C
Employed Since: 2012
Conservatory Professional Highlights:
An innovator in immersive learning and experience design, J.J. Ruscella leads the Shenandoah Center for Immersive Learning (SCIL) as Executive Director at Shenandoah University. Ruscella was tapped to found SCIL Labs as an outgrowth of his work in simulation and training. Entities served include the State Department, United Nations, Border Patrol, George Washington University, as well as various law enforcement, fire, EMT departments and hospitals. His unique application of digital stages and role player training creates opportunities for arts students to enhance STEM educational experiences. Most recently, his VR 360 experience “An Atmosphere of Hate,” was featured in USA Today’s 5th Annual Black History Month magazine, recognizing the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.
Prior to Shenandoah, he served for twelve years as a professor of theatre at the University of Central Florida (UCF), where he held a joint appointments with the UCF School of Film and Digital Media. While there, he co-founded the Interactive Performance Lab, designing one of the first live simulation stages, StoryBox, which was housed at Lincoln Center in 2016 to 2017.
An award-winning director and writer, at 21 years old Ruscella directed the international theatrical premiere of Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart, adapted from the novella that spawned the cult film Hellraiser. His first film, the critically acclaimed Civil War piece Miss Julianne participated at the Short Film Corner Festival de Cannes in 2008. In 2010 and 2011, Ruscella won two Bronze Telly Awards and a Gold and Silver Communicator Award for acting/directing/writing the Santa is Real web series, which has been seen globally throughout North America, Russia, China, and Africa. Ruscella’s novel, Kris: The Legend Begins, hit bookshelves across America in 2012, and his feature film The Karaoke King won the Skyline Film Festival award for best picture in September 2013. Additionally, he has directed numerous live and illustrated commercials.
During his time at UCF, he also served as director of the New York Film Academy’s summer acting program at Disney/MGM Studios for six years.
A.A., Seminole Community College; B.F.A., University of South Florida; M.F.A, Rutgers University
Theatre is a collaborative sport. Here at Shenandoah, one of the nation’s oldest conservatories, we look towards the future. We work together in an atmosphere steeped in academic rigor, to apply 2,500 years of theatre performance, technique, and theory to the emergent industry.
Husband and father of two.