East Carolina University senior Dylan Ritch of Hendersonville was not always involved in theatre.
"When I was younger, I was into sports and I played basketball. Then in high school, I was in a production of 'Little Shop of Horrors' and I fell in love with theatre," said Ritch.
Ritch is currently pursuing a Theatre for Youth degree at East Carolina University's School of Theatre and Dance. He has participated in different youth theatre productions around the east coast, and he has also performed in Japan.
"One of my most memorable experiences doing theatre at ECU was going with Patch Clark to Japan. I stayed in a more rural area outside of the city, so I had to opportunity to be immersed within the culture," said Ritch. "We were able to perform with children from Japan who were learning English, but we learned some Japanese from them too. It was a great cultural learning experience for all of us."
Recently, Ritch has begun building a children's theatre program at the Turnage Theatre in Washington.
"The current director and I are working to create different activities within the program so that children can enjoy all aspects of theatre. We want to make our programs as accessible and comprehensive as possible," said Ritch.
On Fridays, Ritch leads "Act, Sing & Play on Stage," which gives children the opportunity to learn the art of theater though stage direction and presence. They also learn about producing shows, including all the work that goes on backstage as well as on stage. Participants also learn about costuming, makeup, line memorization, projection, and movement on stage, including a staged performance.
"I love working in children's theatre because I learn as much from them as they do from the lessons. They are the most dynamic and creative age group, and they never run out of new, exciting ideas for theatre," said Ritch.
Most recently, Ritch was involved in the Storybook Theatre's production of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," where he starred as Aslan, the Lion.
"I had such a really great experience doing this show, even though some parts of it were difficult. We missed a few final rehearsals after Hurricane Matthew hit, so getting ready for the performance was a little stressful," he said. "But everyone from the actors to the technical crew all worked together to create a really beautiful show that I think audiences are going to really love." show."
While playing Aslan was rewarding, Ritch said that his costume proved to be challenging.
"My lion costume is really heavy and can get hot under the stage lights, so before going on I have to tape an icepack to my chest so I don't get overheated," he said.
Like other Storybook Theatre shows, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" was performed on campus at Wright Auditorium. The show also travelled to Cherry Point for a performance as well.
"I know that my future is in children's theatre. My ideal job would be in a university setting, doing what Patch Clark does now," he said.
After graduation, Ritch plans to continue working at the Turnage Theatre and hopes to one day pursue a master's degree in education or directing.
What advice do you have for other students?
Always give something 100 percent and don't miss out on an opportunity because you feel you may not be qualified.
What is something cool about ECU that you wish you knew during your first year?
The library is one of the greatest resources here. You can rent laptops and there are multiple floors with great study spaces. You also have printing that's available and a fairly high tech scanner.
Written by: Sophronia Knott
Photography by: Cliff Hollis