They say that those who can’t do, teach. But at Penn State, there are plenty of examples of people who do both. Lawyers teaching criminal justice. Journalists teaching communications. Groundbreaking researchers teaching everything from agriculture to zoology.
Richard Robichaux is one of those. He is a member of the Penn State School of Theatre, teaching acting, and that’s a subject he knows more than a little about. He can be seen in the groundbreaking film “Boyhood,” starred opposite Jack Black in the black comedy “Bernie” and appeared on television in many shows including “From Dusk Till Dawn,” “Better Off Ted” and “All My Children.”
Q: I’m told you have a little experience in acting.
A: You could say that. I’ve been doing it for about 20 years. In that time, I’ve also always taught. Most acting jobs are not 365 days a year. A very successful acting career might be just 30 days a year. I focus on television now, not plays. Plays take months, and I have two young children (ages 3 and 6) so that doesn’t work.
Q: What was your first job as a professional actor?
A: My first play was very lucky. I was cast as the lead in a lost Tennessee Williams play in 2000, “Spring Storm.” That was such an amazing opportunity. My first television job was really bittersweet. It was “Spin City.” Growing up, Michael J. Fox was my hero. He let me know that people like me could be on TV. But it was the last two episodes. It was really emotional.
Q: But how about your more recent work? You have something pretty big, right?
A: I’m really excited about “Boyhood.” It’s the little movie that could. Now it’s won the Golden Globe for best motion picture. It’s been nominated for six Academy Awards (including best picture, best actor, best actress, best director, best screenplay and best editing). It’s a great movie and I am incredibly proud to be in it. It was filmed over the course of 12 years ... I was lucky enough to be in it the last two years.
We were actually deciding whether we are going (to the Oscars). Vanity Fair is throwing a party for “Boyhood.” But I will be watching from my cozy little house in State College.
Q: You are new to the area?
A: Brand new. A new faculty member. It’s a big transition. We were really attracted to Penn State because of the theater program. It’s world-class.
Plus, there’s something very attractive to us about the area, juxtaposing the small-town life with big opportunities. Penn State is a cultural icon. (When recruiting), I told students this isn’t a theater program in the middle of nowhere. It’s in the middle of everything — New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, etc. It’s ideally situated for young actors.
Q: Pennsylvania has been the scene of a lot of movies and television shows recently.
A: Lots of states are getting very smart about having more productions with local artists. You have all these things happening. You’re always going to have catering, you’re going to need lodging, you’re going to need vehicles. That’s what happened with “Boyhood.” It happened in Austin (Texas). Less and less is being shot in Los Angeles. That’s why we left. I was leaving so much to work. In the 21st century, artists of all kinds are able to live where they want to live because access to the public is not guarded by the studio system. This didn’t happen even 20 years ago.
Q: So when you’re doing those recruiting trips, are you trying to sell theater while parents want their kids to have a back-up plan?
A: I would say this. Blockbuster is no longer here. There are no longer space shuttles. No one is playing CD’s any more. No one is using videotape. Theater is still here. All of these are things keep falling off, but theater is still here. What we do really lasts. Who would have guessed that AIG and Lehman Brothers would be a riskier proposition than working in theater?