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Joy and Confidence

Stage and television star Debra Jo Rupp, who will teach a master class here on Saturday. 

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 24, 2018) — Millions of TV watchers know that actress Debra Jo Rupp is extremely good at playing harried characters. Comedically, she established this ability as the always-on-tenterhooks agent of Jerry Seinfeld in “Seinfeld” and the matriarch of a crazy household in “That ‘70s Show.” But she’s been harried no less in straight drama, playing a beleaguered social worker in the hit series “This is Us.”

Rupp has rarely if ever been felt put upon, however, when acting before an audience or even auditioning for a major role. When it comes to acting, since she was 10, she’s found a confidence that springs from joy — an attitude she’ll try to impart to UAlbany Theatre Program students this Saturday when she delivers a master acting class in the Performing Arts Center.

“Confidence plays such an important role in success,” said Rupp, who’s been lauded for stage performances in dramas by such literary giants as Terrence McNally, Arthur Laurents and Tennessee Williams. “Especially in this job. And anything I can do to help instill that into young people gives me joy.

“I think this go around at U of Albany will be about the ‘fun’ of an audition using TV/film sides because they’re short and very to the point. I believe that auditioning is the job and getting a role is just icing on the cake. The better you are at auditioning, the more opportunity you have. And I have always been an actor that loves it. I think it makes a difference for a student when you’re being taught by someone who loves what they do.”

Rupp’s appearance at UAlbany was facilitated by her nearby home in Western Massachusetts and her friendship with Theatre Program lecturer Kim Stauffer. “I have worked with Kim Stauffer professionally, both in teaching and on the stage, and I kind of love everything about her,” said Rupp. “UAlbany’s students are lucky to have her.”

Rupp said she was also enticed by the idea of working with a theatre program that is still in its youthful stages, having been renewed as a major in 2014.

The year Rupp began college at the University of Rochester, the school, to her delight, started a theater program. “Having come from a fledgling program, this is exciting to me! I think at this point what might be most useful is introducing a professional outlook — what the business of acting entails. The nuts and bolts of the job.”

Students will know, however, that they are listening to a passionate pro. Program lecturer and head of performance Chad Larabee called Rupp “one of the most versatile actors working today. I was fortunate to see her perform on Broadway in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, where she played Mae opposite Kathleen Turner. She gave an electric performance. She is a chameleon onstage — there is a fearlessness to her work.”

Stauffer noted that the theatrical challenges Rupp has taken create a “brilliant fit” for the UAlbany program’s philosophy. “We want to encourage our students to take risks and explore their various interests,” she said. “There is nothing cookie-cutter about our program — we want our students to find their own creative voice.

“I’ve had the privilege of watching Deb teach, and it is incredible to witness her work with students. She zeros in instinctively on the things that are special about each student, and then teaches them how to highlight that. She wants them to honor and cultivate the quirks and qualities they innately possess because she knows those are things that no other actors will be able to bring into the audition room.”

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