UWO alumnus Schabach returns to share insight

Kellie Wambold

The stage called home UW Oshkosh alumnus Ryan Schabach to take part in the theatre department’s upcoming production of “Our Town” where he said he hopes to help the next generation of actors. Schabach graduated from UW Oshkosh in 1999, earning a degree in psychology and philosophy with an emphasis in existentialism. During his time, Schabach took part in the theatre department. “Our Town” director Richard Kalinoski arranged for Schabach to return to the UWO stage and take on the challenging role of stage manager. “This is a difficult role because it demands that the actor be both casual and rather formal simultaneously, a seeming impossibility, which Ryan somehow makes plausible,” Kalinoski said. Schabach said he began pursuing his acting career in 2003 and ever since has been balancing multiple acting-related gigs, such as choreography. To get those jobs, Schabach said he had to go through a lot of training. After Schabach graduated he spent a year working at a day job running marinas on Lake Michigan. Schabach said he realized soon after he started working he wanted to explore his passion for theater. “I was accepted into the MFA acting program at UW-Madison two weeks prior to classes starting, dropped everything and moved to Willy Street,” Schabach said. Kalinoski, who watched Schabach grow during his time at UW Oshkosh, said he has seen improvement that has come from Schabach’s graduate training and experience. “Ryan has learned, through his expanding career, the virtue of composure,” Kalinoski said. “He brings both an attitude and a definitive skill in maintaining an outward confidence and, at times, a bravado in portraying characters but wisely in proportion.” Now, though, Schabach said he wants to start giving back. “Although I never wanted to pursue education as a career choice, I have noticed that the older I get, the more I want to help the next generation of actors accomplish their goals in this difficult profession,” Schabach said. “My hope is that the cast in ‘Our Town’ will glean a sense of craft while working on this project.” Joshua Decker, who plays George in “Our Town,” said Schabach has been a great teacher just by being at rehearsals. “So far, it’s been a learning experience just observing him work,” Decker said. “He’s given some technical advice here and there, but just watching how he goes about rehearsal and watching his approach to acting has taught me a lot.” Amy Baumgardner, who plays the female lead of Emily in “Our Town,” said Schabach is helping her learn to trust her instincts. “I had a moment on stage with him, actually, and he suggested something, and I just went with it,” Baumgardner said. “He’s not afraid to take on his instincts.” Baumgardner added that even though Schabach is a professional, he’s still approachable. “He’s not intimidating, so I don’t have to be scared to go and ask him anything if I need help,” Baumgardner said. Matthew Nielsen, who plays Mr. Webb in “Our Town,” said that Schabach’s presence has also helped keep the actors focused during the busy rehearsal schedule. “He’s in control,” Nielsen said. “He’s professional. You can tell he’s got stuff down and he’s trying to instill that in us and wants to be focused and give 100 percent all the time.” It’s not just students Schabach has helped. Fellow Oshkosh alumnus Noah Totzke said Schabach’s teachings go beyond just acting. “Ryan has taught me that self-reliance really is the only thing any of us has to better ourselves as people and that outside influences can muddle your choices and detract from your goals,” Totzke said. Totzke also said Schabach is just a great person to have around. “Ryan is an old soul that is at home in his choices both on and offstage,” Totzke said. “He’s one of the most positive and centered people you will ever meet.” Kalinoski said that along with Schabach’s talent, students have witnessed his professional mannerisms. “He understands the enormous and life-draining challenges of staying employed as an actor in the professional theatre world,” Kalinoski said. “He understands the business side of acting professionally and found a measure of graceful acceptance of the obstacles in his way.” Schabach said Oshkosh taught him to face those obstacles. “The theatre department at UWO allowed me, or better yet, instilled in me, the opportunity to stand in the face of adversity and succeed,” Schabach said. Schabach added that the professional theatre life has provided many hurdles to overcome, such as having to give up time with family and friends. “I have missed almost every holiday since 2003,” Schabach said. “[I’ve] missed birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, grandparents’ funerals, and the list goes on and on of the major life events of the people who I care about the most.” Another challenge Schabach noted was constantly moving. “I moved to L.A. in September of 2006 and received a phone call from a friend three months later who asked me to play George in another production of ‘Our Town’ in Houston,” Schabach said. “Within 24 hours I had set up my new home in Houston and had started rehearsal.” Schabach said one of the biggest concerns actors have is finances. “No one ever got into theatre to make excessive amounts of money,” Schabach said. All of these obstacles considered, Schabach said he regrets nothing. “I love the world of theatre and especially my career track of stage acting,” Schabach said. “It is like oxygen to me. Without it, I would be in big trouble.” Schabach said overcoming obstacles doesn’t just apply to theatre majors, though. “Go confidently in the directions of your dreams and endeavor to lead a life you have imagined, and you will be met with a success unbeknownst in common times,” Schabach said. See Schabach in UW Oshkosh’s production of “Our Town” from Oct. 15 through the 18.