Student Spotlight: Adam Riegler ’20 a director with an acting past
Before coming to the woods of New Hampshire for college, Adam Riegler ’20 found his love for theater on some of the biggest stages in New York. From acting on Broadway to directing at Dartmouth, Riegler’s upcoming show “Red Speedo,” which will premiere on a Dartmouth stage on Nov. 15, will draw on his lifetime of experience with theater.
Riegler boasts an impressive acting resume; he has been in multiple films and involved in two Broadway shows, including playing the role of young Shrek in “Shrek The Musical” in 2008 and Pugsley Addams in “The Addams Family” in 2010.
“[Working on Broadway] was really incredible, I mean as great as it sounds,” Riegler said. “It was a super exciting time. I learned both about working in the theater and Broadway, but also about work ethic in general.”
Upon coming to Dartmouth, Riegler discovered that his passion for theater did not lie solely in acting; rather he found that re-imagining plays he respected was what he wanted to do with his life.
“I think it’s sort of something that happened when I came to college … starting my freshman year, I realized that acting was not really my end goal in life,” Riegler explained. “The thing that makes me happiest in the theater is to really create a show, take a script and build the show out of that.”
During his sophomore year at Dartmouth, Riegler took to Broadway again, this time as a production assistant for the show “Meteor Shower.” This experience solidified his newfound enthusiasm for working behind the scenes and led him from acting onto the path of working off-stage and behind the scenes.
Theater professor Jamie Horton has known Riegler throughout his time at the College and has served as Riegler’s adviser on both of the shows Riegler has produced, “Mr. Wolf” and, soon, “Red Speedo.”
“He started out as an actor and has had some significant professional experience and then he decided that he was really more interested in the world of directing, which he has embraced and has distinguished himself already,” Horton said.
The first play that Riegler presented to the department to put on was Rajiv Joseph’s “Mr. Wolf,” which is about an abducted girl reuniting with her family. In order to direct a show at Dartmouth, students are required to take a directing class and a design class prior to proposing their project.
Riegler described “Mr. Wolf” as a “perfect” first show to direct; he was able to bounce ideas off of professors, managed a cast of only five people and had a lot of departmental support. As opposed to the independence Riegler has with “Red Speedo,” “Mr. Wolf” was facilitated by the theater department.
“Red Speedo” is scheduled to play at the Bentley Theater in the Hop on Nov. 15-17. The play, written by Lucas Hnath, is centered around a swimmer named Ray and the performance-enhancing drugs found in his team’s locker room fridge the night before the Olympic trials.
Similar to “Mr. Wolf,” “Red Speedo” also features a small cast — this time with only four people: Ray, his coach, his ex-girlfriend and his brother are the main characters.
“I love working on shows with small casts because we can sit around a table and I can basically chat with the actors over the script and we can figure out who these characters are and what we’re trying to achieve in each scene,” Riegler said. “I get a lot of input from them, which is nice, because obviously I’m still learning.”
During the directing process, Riegler said he loves giving notes to his cast members, because if they disagree with some of his points, he feels as though he learns even more.
Nicolas Bergen ’20, who was known Riegler through the transition from actor to director, plays Peter, the brother, who Riegler says is an “incredibly well-crafted” and “multi-dimensional” character.
“I’m very excited to see where [Adam] takes ‘Red Speedo,’” Bergen said. “It has a lot of great opportunity and potential in it, and I think he sees that. He often brings a different perspective to lines and moments than what I consider, which I appreciate because it helps me expand and diversify my acting.”
Riegler said he saw “Red Speedo” performed in New York years ago and fell in love with it, so he was eager to propose a production of it at Dartmouth.
Riegler added that he is drawn to the show because of the complex characters and complicated relationship dynamics that make the show into one about moral implications and underlying agendas.
In addition to directing “Mr. Wolf” and “Red Speedo,” Riegler spent his off term working at a casting agency in New York and his summer studying theater in London. He said these learning opportunities were invaluable to his future work in the industry.
Horton said he has noticed the effects of Riegler’s dedication to gaining experience in the theater world while he is off campus.
“You can sense not only does he have the skills and the discipline but the inspiration and instincts of a director now, and it is exciting for us to see those develop and look forward to his future,” Horton said.