WMU News

New York actor to share talents with community, students

Feb. 9, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- An accomplished actor is visiting the area as an artist in residence and will perform in John Caird and Stephen Schwartz's newest musical, "Children of Eden," at Western Michigan University.

In addition to performing, James Rich, a member of the Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States, will conduct several workshops with University and local public school students.

Rich can be described in theatrical terms as a true "triple threat" since he is not only a talented actor, but also excels at singing and dancing. Currently a resident of New York City, Rich is a native of Connecticut and holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in acting and voice from Syracuse University, though he began his career in the visual arts before turning to theatre.

Rich has been acting for more than 10 years and has performed in more than 20 roles in numerous theatres across the nation. His credits include four national tours, the most prominent of which is the featured role of Benny in the First National Tour of the Broadway smash hit musical "Rent." He also has toured Europe singing with Harry Belafonte.

Rich's role of Father in "Children of Eden" places him in the position of creator of the earth. He watches and interacts as generations of his children experience all of the love, pain and trials of families, from Adam and Eve and their banishment from the Garden of Eden to Cain and Abel and their tumultuous sibling rivalry and concluding with Noah and his family's triumphant voyage on the ark.

Rich also will bring his knowledge and experience to the classroom and has generated great interest among WMU theatre students.

"James has an experience level in New York that is priceless," says junior music theatre performance major Anjanette Hall, who is featured as Eve/Mama Noah in the upcoming production. "His input helps us to know what to expect when we get there."

In addition to collaborating in performance, Anjanette has been working with Rich in a music theatre workshop class. Rich also is working with department of acting classes as well as conducting a workshop for the Kalamazoo Public Schools through the music theatre element of the Education for the Arts program.

Rich's residency is funded by WMU President Elson S. Floyd, the WMU Cultural Events Committee, the University's Visiting Scholars and Artist Program, and its Department of Black Americana Studies as well as by the Plaza Arts Circle and Education for the Arts.

The Visiting Scholars and Artists Program was established in 1960 and has supported some 500 visits by scholars and artists representing more than 65 academic disciplines. The chairperson of the committee who oversees the program is Dr. James M. Hillenbrand, professor of speech pathology and audiology.

"Children of Eden" runs Feb. 17-26 in University Theatre and is directed by WMU Director of Music Theatre Performance Todd Neal. Performances are at 8 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee performance on Sunday, Feb. 26. Tickets are $14 for adults; $12 for seniors, WMU faculty/staff and non-WMU students; and $5 for WMU students.

To purchase tickets, call the Gilmore Theatre Ticket Office at 387-6222 weekdays from noon to 6 p.m.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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