Tony award winning alumna educates crowd with humor

Shauna Carter

Alice Ripley, Kent State alumna and Tony-award wining actress, filled the Kiva with tons of laughter last night with her humorous “Inside the Actor’s studio” speech about the obstacles and triumph of being a Broadway actress.

“An evening with Alice Ripley,” was an interview style speech in which Ripley, who has been involved with Broadway for more than 20 years, sat down with John Crawford, dean of the College of the Arts.

Ripley and Crawford went through the musicals in which Ripley starred in, such as ”Who’s Tammy,” “Les Miserables,” “Rocky Horror Show” and “Next to Normal.”

“I read online that your first stage debut was in ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” Crawford said.

“The leaf monkey,” replied Ripley as the crowd boasted with laughter. “I upgraded myself to the leaf monkey. Originally I was just a flying monkey, but for the sake of the story, I upgraded.”

Ripley hasn’t always been a flying monkey, though. She told the crowd she originally went to DePaul University on a scholarship. When her scholarship was up, her father wanted her to come to a state school because Riley’s family comprised of 11 children.

“In 1983, there were like five schools in the whole U.S.A that gave a (Bachelor’s of Fine Arts) in Musical Theater,” Ripley said. “I knew that Kent State did, so I was like ‘that’s it’.”

Ripley said when she got to Kent State she realized that the women and men at the university were very strong and powerful. A particular person that Ripley said she sort of followed was Professor Terri Kent. Kent is still a theatre professor in the School of Theatre and Dance.

Ripley also followed the advice of Louis and Eugenia Erdman.

“Eugenia (Genie) embodied me to have that kind of grace as a dancer,” Ripley said. “Just being with (the Erdmans), it was great training.”

Jason Leupold, a senior theatre studies major, said he related to Ripley’s speech so well because of common thoughts he shares with her.

“I have met a few people in the field,” Leupold said, “but Alice was one who I really connected with because we share a lot of ideas as theater being an art form.”

Ripley highlighted her perspective on the art of theatre during the speech.

“It is the life of an artist,” Ripley said about acting. “If you look at in this way, it is a lot easier and more fun because it is more than acting.”

Ripley said one of the great things about Kent State was the fact that the university did its own work.

“Every year we did something new,” Ripley said. “It got my imagination going at Kent. We played hard, and we worked hard.”

Alice won a Tony award in 2009 for her role as Diana Goodman in the musical “Next To Normal.”

She has also been nominated for a Tony award and Helen Hayes award for her role as a conjoined twin, Violet Hilton, in “Slide Show.” Ripley has also been nominated for Helen Hayes Awards for “Shakespeare In Hollywood,” “Company” and “Tell Me On Sunday.”

She has a band, RIPLEY, in which she has written and recorded more than 100 songs.

She performed a few songs on her guitar, including a song from a musical she starred in “Who Will Love Me As I am” from “Slideshow.”

“I liked hearing her sing,” Leupold said. “It was cool to hear her talk about each individual experience in her shows. It made it easier to relate to as a person.”

Ripley said acting can or cannot be successful, but it doesn’t mean people shouldn’t try. She said actors should not feel the need to have something else to fall back on but acting can come first.

“If someone discourages you, understand it is only because they care and don’t want to see you hurt, Ripley said.” But don’t let that get in your way…don’t let them stop you. Just pat them on the head.”

Contact Shauna Carter at