The International Theatre Program at Todd Union has launched its season-opening production, the psychological thriller When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder?
With a cast of University students, the story unfolds in a ’70s diner (think red vinyl, malt shakes, and big hair) staffed by a medley of characters, each a bit down on their luck. The curtains open on what appears will be just another day in small-town America, until strangers stumble into the local diner. Teddy, a Vietnam War vet, has a troubled past, a chip on his shoulder, and a hippie girlfriend, Cheryl, who is along for the ride. Stephen (Red) Ryder is a disenchanted short-order cook with big dreams. Throw in some bourgeois naïveté, a good-humored gas station attendant, fugitives on the run, and things get interesting.
Welcome to Foster’s Diner, a little joint forgotten by all but a few sorry souls. It may not be much to look at but it sure has character. Well, characters. Let’s meet a few of the Rochester students who bring those characters to life.
Ian von Fange ’17, as Steven (Red) Ryder
Ian von Fange plays the role of Steven (Red) Ryder, the cook at Foster’s and a character whose proclaimed wanderlust isn’t convincing anyone. Steven is a closed-off guy who has put up a lot of barriers between himself and the other characters. If von Fange could give Steven one piece of advice it would be to accept help when it’s offered. “There’s no honor being lost,” von Fange says. “There’s no dignity being lost. To honestly say ‘I need your help’ and ‘thank you for your help.’”
Von Fange is a senior majoring in creative writing. He hopes to move to New York City after graduation to get a gig in publishing. He’s been acting for almost 12 years, and has acted professionally at theaters in his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. This is his eighth production at the University.
The most significant difference between Todd productions and some of his high school’s productions, he says, is the level of professionalism and the quality of the production. Most of the directors are hired from professional off-Broadway and international theater companies. Von Fange says they expose students to a high standard of performance as well as an intensive work schedule. How intense? About four nights a week, from 7 to 11 p.m, and on the weekends are 9 hour days. For those of you doing the math that’s 34 hours a week.
Von Fange spends his free time writing poetry and maintaining a blog. He is also a drummer and has performed with several local bands around Rochester.
Theodore (Teddy) Rycroft ’18, as Teddy
Teddy Rycroft shares his character’s first name but not much else. The character Teddy, like Red, is also a war veteran recently returned from Vietnam. Teddy, though, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He is a violent and manipulative man who seems to take pleasure in disrupting the lives of the others. “I like to think I’m not any of those things,” Rycroft says in good humor. He says that because their dispositions are so different it can be challenging to play a character that cruel. However, it’s also a multifaceted role because the character uncovers ugly truths others don’t want to—but need to—hear. When asked what advice he would give to the other “Teddy,” Rycroft says he’d probably give him a hug.
Rycroft’s first Todd production was last fall’s Under Milkwood where he played multiple characters. He says it’s a new challenge to now play only one character because there are “a whole myriad of intentions that happen moment to moment.” At the same time, he says, it’s more rewarding because he is able focus on a single person’s development. He says the heavy rehearsal schedule is “a lot, but I knew that going into it.” His mantra on time management is “discipline is the key to freedom,” and he suggests that stressed students acknowledge a tier of priorities: food, sleep, and exercise.
Rycroft is a junior majoring in linguistics. He’s from Washington, D.C., and has been acting on-and-off since middle school. In addition to the Todd productions, Rycroft is deeply invested in songwriting and music production, which he does at studios off campus. His goal is to make a livable income solely from his music production within five years of graduation.
Andria Rabenold ’18, as Cheryl
Andria Rabenold plays Cheryl, Teddy’s girlfriend. Cheryl spends most of the play seated at a diner booth, observing while the action unfolds around her. Sound easy? Not so much, Rabenold says. Although Cheryl is not doing she is constantly reacting, and that demands vigilant concentration from Rabenold. “It’s a challenge to stay present and focused throughout the entire thing and to be 100 percent in the moment even when I’m not directly involved,” she says.
Additionally, Rabenold expresses her frustration with her character’s meek and quiet disposition. This presents its own internal struggle as Rabenold, who considers herself a very bold and outspoken individual, must allow her character to get pushed around on stage. “She never gets a chance to really stand up for herself,” Rabenold says. Her advice to Cheryl is that “independence is really valuable, and you can’t rely on other people for happiness and stability your whole life.”
Off stage, Rabenold channels her outgoing personality into many campus pursuits. This year she is a senator in SA government, chair of the academic affairs committee, and member of Kappa Alpha Theta. She also performs in a ballet group, and is involved in Toop, the student-run theater performance group. With all those activities it’s a wonder she makes it to rehearsal. “The key is that I keep everything in Google calendar,” she says. Her calendar is color-coded and when she’s really busy she blocks out times specifically to study and eat.
Rabenold is a junior majoring in math and political science. She’s from Saratoga Springs, New York, and has been acting for nearly 10 years. In high school, she performed mostly in musical theater and didn’t get involved in plays until college. She says that although her love for musicals is still strong, she has come to prefer plays because they’re more human and understated. This is her fourth performance at Todd Union.
Jacqueline Tran ’17, as Clark
Jacqueline Tran is making her theatrical debut as the strict and overbearing diner owner known as Clark. Tran is tasked with creating a fictional backstory for her character, as very little information is provided by the script or the playwright. Although Red Ryder is Tran’s very first play, she has been taking acting lessons for three years. When asked why she finds acting so rewarding Tran says, “It makes you become aware of the nuances in human nature we would easily pass by.”
Tran is senior majoring in anthropology and is from Brooklyn, New York. When she’s not rehearsing, Tran takes violin lessons at the Eastman School of Music and is involved with College Feminists. She also plans to join SATSANG, a meditation club, once Red Ryder has finished. She finds time by keeping a flexible schedule and doing school work whenever there’s a spare moment.
When You Comin’ Back Red Ryder? won an Obie Award for Distinguished Play in 1974.
With its debut on October 6, the production of When you Comin’ Back, Red Ryder? runs from Wednesday, October 12 to Saturday, October 15, at 7 p.m. All performances take place in Todd Theater on the River Campus. Tickets are $8 for University of Rochester students, $12 for alumni, faculty, staff, and for seniors (65+), and $15 for the general public. The series is recommended for adult audiences only.
Tickets may be purchased online at www.rochester.edu/theatre, or by calling the box office at (585) 275-4088. Tickets may also be purchased up to an hour before each performance at the box office.
Category: The Arts