Ellicott City native stays in spotlight

Actor: Ric Ryder, who has worked in such acclaimed shows as `Blood Brothers' and `Grease,' began acting in the third grade.

June 09, 2000|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

RicRyder has never forgotten where he came from.

The Broadway actor who grew up in Ellicott City has fond memories of his life in Howard County, where he still has family.

"I try to get back whenever my schedule allows it," Ryder said. "I come down and visit quite often."

That trek has been made a bit easier by Ryder's current role in "Reunion" at Ford's Theater in Washington. Ryder, who was in the first graduating class of Centennial High School in 1979, plays a young soldier in the Civil War musical.

It's a character that Ryder says he has been drawn to over the several months he has been in the role.

"I really like playing him," Ryder said. "I enjoy the evolution of how he has been seen and treated throughout the war."

Ryder has been burning up the Great White Way with performances in such acclaimed shows as "Blood Brothers" - in which he starred with music legend CaroleKing after taking over the role from former "Hardy Boy" Shaun Cassidy - and "Grease" with Rosie O'Donnell.

It hardly seems like work for Ryder, who has honed his craft over the years by working cruise ships and local theater. He loves what he does.

"I have great passion for the theater and music," Ryder said. "It's something I have always enjoyed."

Roles have been flowing Ryder's way almost since birth. Born in Baltimore, Ryder moved to Howard County as a youngster and began his acting career in the third grade at Northfield Elementary School - in "The Tortoise and the Hare," his mother recalled.

"He played both parts," said Ann Harrison Ryder, who works as the information and referral coordinator for Howard County. "He was wonderful."

She said his talent was obvious at a young age.

"He started talking like an adult at 8 months old, and he hasn't stopped since," she said, laughing. "I remember once, when he was a little boy, I took him to see a show and afterward he was sitting in the front seat and I said, `Did you like that, Ric?'"

"He looked at me and said, `I can do that,'" his mother said.

He sang in church regularly, and by the time he was in middle school, Ryder was a member of the Baltimore Actors' Theater.

"I actually did commercials through them," Ryder recalled. "Then I became a part of the Young Columbians Community Theater, which Toby Orenstein, owner of Toby's Dinner Theatre, started."

After a few years at Mount Hebron High School, Ryder transferred to Centennial High School, where he was reunited with his middle-school drama teacher, Mo Dutterer. Dutterer, who still teaches there, counts Ryder as one of his prized students.

"He had the interest, he had the talent, and he had the support of his parents," Dutterer said.

Ryder often returns to talk to Dutterer's classes about his craft. Every spring, Dutterer takes a group of students on a field trip to New York to see a Broadway show and participate in a workshop given by former students, he said.

"Ric has done a few workshops for us," Dutterer said. "His voice has just gotten better and better."

Taking a page from the book of instruction he received from Dutterer and as a music student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Ryder began teaching musical theater last year for New York University. And while he keep busy professionally, Ryder said teaching has stirred something in him.

"Teaching has helped me remember the way I felt early on about the profession," Ryder said. "I saw myself in these kids."

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