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Former Theater student Cabrera credits CCRI with opening the doors to his success

RUDYCApril 18, 2022

As a “hands-on” learner, Providence’s Rudy Cabrera credits his success in entertainment to his vast array of experiences outside of the classroom, but remains equally thankful for the foundation he built as a theater student at the Community College of Rhode Island.

The 33-year-old Cabrera, a poetry slam veteran and professional actor, spent two years honing his craft at CCRI under the guidance of theater professor and program coordinator Ted Clement.

As he prepares for his upcoming role as Clotaldo in the Trinity Repertory Company production of Sueno, Cabrera fondly remembers his time as a student, which gave him the confidence to test the waters in the wildly-competitive entertainment industry.

“I loved CCRI. My experience in the classroom taught me how valuable the technical aspect of theater is,” said Cabrera, who attended CCRI from 2009–2011. “Raw talent is one thing, but you can only do so much with raw talent.

“An education helps you fine-tune it and put it to practical use.”

Cabrera’s role in Sueno – a contemporary English-language reimagining of Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s Life is a Dream, which runs through May 8 at Trinity Rep – is his first on-stage theater performance since prior to the start of the pandemic. He last performed in Trinity Rep’s A Tale of Two Cities in February of 2020, but the production lasted only a week and a half until the pandemic hit.

Cabrera stayed busy performing at one-off poetry events and also starred in the independent short film Deep Redd, a horror anthology/hip hop musical filmed in Rhode Island that also featured a handful of CCRI students.

Most recently, he participated in the Rhode Island PBS panel discussion “Black Joy: History, Tradition, and Legacy of Joy in RI’s Black Community.” His resume also includes bilingual and Spanish-speaking roles in a variety of modern contemporary theater productions in addition to his performance on the poetry slam circuit, where his team from the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, MA, earned a top 10 finish at the 2013 National Poetry Slam competition.

A self-proclaimed “lover of language,” Cabrera is a throwback performer with unmatched versatility and depth, but admits “a big chunk of myself was missing” during the two years in which he couldn’t perform on stage due to the pandemic. His love for theater surfaced at the age of 17 amidst a troubled past at Central High School and developed into a lifelong passion under the tutelage of CCRI’s diverse theater faculty.

Cabrera vividly remembers working on the CCRI Players’ production of Much Ado About Nothing during his final semester at the college. A member of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) committee – a committee Clement has served on for more than a decade – attended the show’s final performance and gave Cabrera an important piece of advice that he credits as the “turning point” in his development as a performer.

“At the time, I had a bit of a mumbling problem. That, coupled with my Rhode Island accent, was short-changing the work I was doing,” Cabrera recalled. “He told me, ‘You need to work on your articulation. You swallow too many of your consonants and I have trouble hearing you.’

“That made me realize that the raw talent I had and everything I could do on that stage wouldn’t matter if I didn’t work on the technical aspects. I credit that to the resources CCRI made available to us as theater students – just the fact that someone from the KCACTF came to give us advice.

“I have no doubt my journey would’ve taken longer without that.”

Theater, Cabrera says, allows him to express himself in ways other forms of entertainment don’t allow. When he was uncertain where his journey would lead him at a young age, or when he felt the pressure to run with the wrong crowds, theater kept him grounded.

“Theater changed everything for me,” Cabrera said. “It gave me a passion that was stronger than the influence around me.”

Even with the success he’s had as an actor, poet, and storyteller, and his reputation as a reliable performer who works tirelessly behind the scenes, Cabrera remains a student of theater despite no longer being a theater student.

“I credit CCRI with opening the door for me to fully grasp the importance of all the work that goes into this craft before the curtain rises,” Cabrera said. “CCRI encouraged me to pay attention to those details, which helped me fine-tune my speech, my voice, and my articulation.

“I’m all the way back and fully locked in again. I’m blessed to be a part of this.”

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