You are here

Stu Richel's gifts honor Theatre Director John Astin

Class of '64 alumnus shares journey as actor and donor
Posted March 24, 2017
By funding a charitable gift annuity, actor and alumnus Stu Richel receives guaranteed income and tax savings while supporting the future of the Johns Hopkins Program in Theatre Arts and Studies. By funding a charitable gift annuity, actor and alumnus Stu Richel receives guaranteed income and tax savings while supporting the future of the Johns Hopkins Program in Theatre Arts and Studies.

Actor Stu Richel didn’t envision a life of one-man shows, voice work and last-minute call backs. The former war photographer and successful corporate lawyer traded the business world for theater on a whim in the 1980s. Recently cast as J. Edgar Hoover, a deacon and a prosecution witness, Richel supports the Johns Hopkins Program in Theatre Arts and Studies.

How did leaving law change your life?

“I really leaped off the edge. General Electric Company was a great place to work, with terrific people, but I didn’t want to be a lawyer anymore. Then I entered the artistic fray, a much more free-wheeling and self-propelled environment.”

One of your first jobs as a working actor was with Northside Theatre Company in San Jose. What did you learn in those early years?

“I had written what I thought might be a one-man show and called the artistic director. That began a long relationship. I became the resident playwright and took on some fund-raising tasks. I very much cared about the success, the survival of this theater. Because of its live quality, theater can touch the heart and reach the soul in a way other artistic forms cannot.”

Why do you tend to focus your writer’s lens on real people?

“I’ve always been interested in matters of integrity and strength of character, those who have it and those who don’t, especially those who do have it fighting against those who don’t. I’ve written plays about Theodore Judah, an engineer who was the driving force behind the Transcontinental Railroad, and the Donner Party’s saga of courage and cowardice. Hard circumstances bring out the best, and worst, in us all.”

You’re busy promoting your latest play, “Vietnam…through my lens;” shooting print ads and appearing on Showtime’s hedge-fund drama “Billions” next year. Why do you stay connected with your alma mater, particularly the Program in Theatre Arts and Studies?

“Theater brightens the academic palette. And Director John Astin [A&S ’52] has a formidable background in stage and screen. He has given a chunk of his life to the care and feeding of the program. Last year, John invited me back, and we conducted a joint seminar on one-man plays. I performed snippets of my solo work, and John showed clips of his piece on Edgar Allan Poe. I was honored to share his stage. I also wanted to help the program along financially and get a return during my lifetime. Making a charitable gift annuity was useful for all of us.