Ruppel leaves River City Players

Friday, June 16, 2006
Steve Ruppel, director of the River City Players' production of "The Real Thing," posed for a photo as he looked out of a window at the River City Yacht Club on Wednesday. (Don Frazier)

For 10 years, Steve Ruppel has performed in and directed plays for the River City Players. Now he is about to leave the community theater group to live with his fiancZ in Chicago, where he will pursue other theatrical opportunities.

"We're losing a very competent individual," said Lisa Letner, who has known Ruppel for five years and regards him as a dear friend. "He was a great addition to the River City Players and I always looked forward to whenever he was interested in performing in a play."

To end his 10 years, Ruppel will direct five performances of Tom Stoppard's "The Real Thing," on June 16, 17, 22, 23 and 24 at Port Cape Girardeau Restaurant.

Almost in movie-like fashion, the day after the play's last performance, he will board a plane for Chicago.

Ruppel said he has mixed feelings about leaving.

"I'm not sure if it's a blessing or if it's a mistake," Ruppel said. "The blessing is that it's like a Band-Aid -- you take it off quickly and be done. The problem is that I want to have more time to say good-bye."

The 33-year-old has deep roots in the area. He graduated from Jackson High School and Southeast Missouri State University. Ruppel did not pursue theater in high school, but when attending Southeast, he took interest in the university's theatrical productions, performing in seven of them.

"The Real Thing" is Ruppel's second time directing, his first experience being "On Golden Pond" in 1997.

"The most challenging part of directing here in Cape Girardeau is finding actors who are willing and able to perform in parts that they assign to them," Ruppel said. "This is community theater, not professional theater."

Ruppel has built an intense emotional connection to play because it relates to his personal life. While directing, he has had to deal with the isolation from his fiancZ.

"The relationship elements of this play have hit home a bit more because the woman I've been with for the past six years is now suddenly in Chicago," Ruppel said. "I go home for the first time in many years and there's nobody there."

Chuck Ross, who directed Ruppel in his first production, has seen Ruppel come into his own as an actor.

"From the minute he walks out on stage, he has you in the palm of his hand," Ross said. "He can be any character he wants to be."

People who have known Ruppel only professionally also have good things to say about him. Arthur Wilhite, who plays Henry Boot in "The Real Thing," has known Ruppel for only a month but respects the directorial style Ruppel uses.

"He is an actor's director," Wilhite said. "He is receptive to suggestions from other people and makes an actor feel comfortable."

Letner said she will miss Ruppel's creative presence and hopes he finds satisfying work in Chicago.

"I wish him all the luck in the world," Letner said. "I know he will succeed."

sludwig@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 211

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