At the age of 11, Daniel Ricken ’12 (Woodbury, N.Y.) was asked to participate in a play during summer camp. His passion for theater was stoked — a passion that is taking flight at Lafayette.
Ricken acted throughout middle and high school. He performed in numerous plays and musicals, and he dabbled in many aspects of theater. In high school, he began working backstage directing smaller shows.
Then he came to Lafayette and became one of the College’s first theater majors.
“While performing in many of the College theater productions, I have had the opportunity to stage manage, house manage, and direct several times,” says Ricken. “I really love directing. It enables you to not only create a vision, but to see it followed through.”
His love of directing led to an independent study with Mary Jo Lodge, assistant professor of English. His work focused on the direction of musical theater, and its main goal was to help Ricken develop the skills to direct pieces of musical theater from multiple time periods. He researched musicals of the last century, examined prominent musical theater directors, and performed directing analyses on selections from three pieces: She Loves Me, bare, and Company.
Ricken spent the last eight weeks of the semester directing these selections. Along with vocal director Alyson Shumeyko ’14 (Vestal, N.Y.), stage manager Thomas Benjamin ’12 (Norristown, Pa.), accompanist Kok Thong Wong ’14 (Kuantan, Malaysia), and Lodge, the selections were cast, blocked, vocalized, and rehearsed. The students performed the selections Dec. 10 at a Fringe Friday, a showcase of student performances in various media.
“As a student, working with students can be intimidating,” he says. “These are students that I have performed alongside in numerous productions, and now I am becoming their leader.”
Ricken had to make some adjustments to adequately stage his production on a thrust stage, where the audience sits on three sides. He had to reconfigure some of his ideas to fit the new space, and he rose to the challenge to create a successful production.
He plans to put these experiences to good use as he pursues a career in theater. Next semester, he will study in London. In addition to taking classes, he will work behind the scenes at a London theater and stage manage a production.
“I am not entirely sure about my career plans,” says Ricken. “Ideally, I would like to run an educational theater program somewhere. I would like to teach students about acting, directing, and stagecraft while directing productions at an institution.”