Ray Abruzzo. I joined the Chappell Players immediately upon starting SJU in the fall of 1972. I had been involved in theater all through High School and was anxious to jump right in.I auditioned for the first series of one acts directed by students and got the lead in The Indian Wants the Bronx. Went on to spend ALL of my time when not in class in The Little Theater. I directed, acted and became president and finally senior advisor of the Chappell Players.
During those years the Chappell Players grew leaps and bounds, in membership and accomplishments. With the success of productions like Jesus Christ Superstar we were able to completely re-do the scene shop with new tools , bought sewing machines for costumes, new curtains for the theater and much more. It was a unique time as the group was nearly 100% student run.
How was the transition from college to the real world? How was life after graduation?
I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in acting. Tough going at first. I went on to study outside of SJU at the famed Neighborhood Playhouse ( on the advice of another CPer Robin Kaiser). Then struggled living in the city for many years. I started a theatre group called the Bond Street Theater Coalition (a off-shoot of an experimental troupe we started at Chappell Players) which is still going strong! Eventually, I took a chance and moved to LA and after more years of struggle eventually established myself there and have been a working actor ever since.
Have you been able to remain involved in theatre as much as you hoped/wanted?
I have made a career in television but I try to do a play as often as I am able. There is nothing like live theater. It is thrilling to be back in NY doing Dinner with the Boys on Theater Row.
What is professional theatre like compared to what you accomplished with CPTG?
During my time in CP you did it all. Built sets, acted, directed, hung lights, painted the theater, hung billboards around campus on and on. Now I am fortunate to work with wonderful professionals who do all of that and I get to focus on my acting. But learning and doing all those jobs instilled me with a respect for every job done in the theater (and in film and television as well).
What was your favorite CPTG memory?
There are so many: being thrown by the seat of my pants in The Lion inWinter and sliding off the stage into the lap of the audience, (an actor had his sleeve catch fire in the same production). Jesus Christ Superstar was a huge milestone for that era of CP. A huge success, giant cast, hired musicians, bomb scares, a near hanging and more! I also remember making an entrance in Moliere's Flying Doctor on a motorcycle!! There are many more memories that I can't out in print ( it was the 70s!!!)
Do you have any advice for Chappell Players who are going through college or have already graduated?
Yes, find things in your life that give you joy and creative satisfaction outside of your chosen profession. Live a full life. Say "Yes" to everything and never think you have nothing else to learn.