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Alumni Spotlight: Brian Fruits

Fruits headshotFilmmaker and director, Brian Fruits had a large body of work under his belt before graduating from the University of Memphis in May 2013.

A native of Chicago, Fruits came to Memphis because he’d heard good things about the program and he wanted to continue his studies in a diverse environment. His interest is teaching, but he wanted to have other experiences, learn other skills while furthering his education.

“I liked the U of M for the MFA program. I think Memphis, which is so diverse, allows me to work with all kinds of people,” he said. “Being here in Memphis made me comfortable with who I was as a person. It’s a melting pot.”

Although his BA was in Secondary Education from Concordia University in Chicago, Fruits started directing professionally in 2005 with Jesus Christ Superstar for Just Passing By Theatre in Northlake, Ill. His professional directorial debut in Memphis was Prison Stories for Voices of the South, a local production company.

Since 2005, he directed in a variety of venues, such as Playhouse on the Square and Hattiloo Theatre. He also has a couple of film credits under his belt, with Fortune Cookie and Yellow Light, which was featured this year in the On Location Memphis International Film Festival.

A 4.0 student with a Full-Ride Fellowship and Grant, Fruits directed a variety of productions for the Department of Theatre and Dance. In 2012, he received a Best Dramatic Play Ostrander winner for W;t. That same year, he received the University of Memphis Creative Excellence Award in Fine Arts.

In 2013, he received Best Director from the Fred Mertz Association and the Ostrander for Best Choreographer, Best Large Ensemble for Medea. He also received the 2013 Meritorious Teaching Award from the University.

“My MFA degree from the U of M will allow me to get whatever I want out of it. I’m very proud of my degree and the time I spent here,” Fruits said.

After graduation, Fruits continued working as a freelance producer and director in Chicago and Memphis, including a project for the Hattiloo Theatre called Black Pearl Sings. Currently, he is the artistic director and founder of The Just Passing By Theatre Company, NFP, working in the U.S. and Canada. His recent project is "The Soundless Awe."

Fruits said he is grateful to those who helped him while in school and since graduation. He is especially grateful to Dean Richard Ranta, who was approached by Linn Sitler, Memphis and Shelby County Film Commissioner, about a recommendation for an open position with B.B. King’s Restaurant and Blues Club.

“He told her about me. That’s personal education right there,” Fruits said. “He knows my name. The dean…a man that’s so busy. He knows my name.”

Fruits was hired and he is currently director of Creative Development, a role which has him working with Tommy Peters, owner. In this position, he is the assistant director supporting and staging his traveling music show, which has taken him all over the world on major ships of the Holland America Cruise Line.

“I will always be grateful to the U of M, the dean and my education. For me, it’s worked to my advantage being here.”

A vocal ambassador for the CCFA and the University, Fruits takes pride in his education and what he accomplished and learned as a student.

“I’m proud to be a Tiger and my degree. I took it very seriously. I’ve never taken it for granted.

When I go to the workplace, I let them know I’m from the U of M. I feel a responsibility to let people know that, no matter where I go.”

After this article was complete, Brian Fruits left BB Kings and is now teaching English to alternative students in Frazier, part-time at Rhodes College and acting classes at Playhouse on the Square, as well as directing at various Memphis theatres.

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Last Updated: 4/8/14