Written by Rebecca R. Lustig
How do you measure success? By definition there are many choices: the achievement of something planned or attempted; attainment of fame, wealth or power; something that turns out as planned or intended or even somebody who is wealthy, famous, or powerful because of record of achievement. Still, these “dictionary” explanations allow wide berth for interpretation. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing a Hilberry alumnus who recently celebrated his 25th anniversary as a professor in the Department of Theatre at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio. This alumnus, of the class of 1978, also happens to be a former professor of mine and by all definitions, I would say, has a success story worth telling.
Ric Goodwin was bitten by the theatre “bug” late in his high school career. A sports aficionado, Ric played on the football, baseball and wrestling teams at Brunswick High School. An injury during his senior year however, left him unable to play football or wrestle. As a result, Ric found himself with some free time on his hands. It was then that he turned to the Senior Class Play and an extra bit of inspiration from his mother, who was an English teacher at Brunswick High School and directed the school plays. After graduation Ric decided to follow in his mother’s footsteps and pursued a career as a high school English teacher (Ric received his BS from Ashland in 1971). This avenue led him to Medina High School where he found himself in an awkward standoff with the School Board over the censorship of a production of Godspell he had proposed to direct.
Thus Ric found himself at another crossroad and thought, “Where can I teach and not be censored? At a university.” It was then that he decided to return to higher education and pursue his MFA in Acting at Wayne State University as a member of the Hilberry Classic Repertory Theatre Company. Ric joined the company in 1976, when the Hilberry MFA was only a two-year program. Like many of our current actors, Ric chose the Hilberry program because of the classical repertory training offered. He also notes that the company was then a healthy mix between students directly from undergraduate programs and students like himself, who were returning to school. Other memories he mentions were the long days of classes, rehearsal and performance; rehearsing productions in a church that the university owned down Cass Avenue; and teaching undergraduate Theatre 101 and acting classes (Ric received his Master’s degree from the University of Akron). He fondly recalls starting an intramural softball team called the “Hilberry Bards” and how they came in second place during his first spring at the Hilberry: “Pretty impressive for a bunch of actors and techies!”
As soon as he graduated from Wayne State, Ric headed to Hollywood with dreams of a career in film. Because he had stage combat experience, his big break came by way of stunt work. But after work in Holy Moses with Dudley Moore, serving as Randy Quaid’s stunt double, as well as numerous other roles, Ric decided it was time for a change of scenery. He recalls leaving Hollywood around the time of the actor’s strike in 1980. From there he spent three years teaching at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and started a family. While teaching in Wisconsin, Ric received a call from his professor and mentor, Murray Hudson (Professor Emeritus at Ashland), asking him if he would be interested in returning to Ashland to teach. In 1984, he returned to his alma mater, where he continues to teach and direct to this day.
Throughout his career Ric has directed countless productions. Some of his favorites include the first and most recent production of Peter Shaffer’s Equus, the North American Premier of Richard Taylor’s Whistle Down The Wind (for which I, incidentally, happily served as the assistant stage manager), and the World Premier of Divide the Living Child as part of The College of Arts and Sciences Symposium on the Holocaust. Two personal highlights of Ric’s acting career include How I Learned to Drive, opposite his daughter Erin (now pursuing an acting career in NYC), and Proof. Both productions were directed by Ric’s aforementioned mentor and friend, Murray Hudson.
Ric believes theatre has a bright and interesting future. He notes that even with the advent of the “online classroom” age, theatre performance classes will remain unique because person-to-person contact is fundamental. He also says we need to constantly keep engaging and rebuilding audiences to ensure theatre’s future. Ric’s love and passion for theatre is evident in everything that he does. He credits his lifelong love of learning, insisting that as long as he has the “itch” he will continue to act, teach and direct. There is still much he would love to do, and directing Tony Kushner’s Angel’s in America: Millennium Approaches and Perestroika is on the top of his list. He recently directed Peter Shaffer’s Equus to celebrate his 25th anniversary at Ashland, he continues to produce his one-man Mark Twain show, he is on the board of directors for the Ohio Educational Theatre Association, and he has directed several All-Ohio Thespian Productions. He will also be hosting this year’s State Thespian Conference at Ashland University in March.
Ric’s sound advice for all aspiring educators, directors and actors is simple: be a lifelong learner of theatre. And with 25 years at Ashland University and only two sick days, Ric Goodwin practices what he preaches.