Ripon native Rob Neill, right, speaks with the cast of “Peter and the Starcatcher” during Saturday’s rehearsal.
Ripon native Rob Neill, right, speaks with the cast of “Peter and the Starcatcher” during Saturday’s rehearsal.

   Returning to the stage at Ripon High School was nostalgic for theater actor and 1987 Ripon High School graduate Rob Neill.

   After performing in a national Broadway tour and becoming the artistic director for an independent theater in New York, Rob’s old high school stage brought back memories.

   “It was fun just to kind of walk back and walk through and get on stage and look back out into the auditorium,” he said. “Obviously a lot of the high school around has changed but it still seemed very familiar. It’s a long time ago now ... 30-some years later. But to come back and look at it, it’s definitely grounding. It’s nostalgic.”

   However, Rob did not return to Ripon to perform on his old high school stage.

   Instead, he visited Ripon last weekend to help the Ripon High School cast with its performance of “Peter and the Starcatcher,” which is the same musical Rob performed in for the first national Broadway tour of that production. On the tour, he was the understudy for several roles and portrayed characters Lord Leonard Aster, Alf and Slank.

   As a youngster in Ripon, Rob was involved in Boy Scouts. While that might not obviously connect to his career in theater, he found the experience carried with him: being able to help, to give back.

   “It’s great to kind of be here for that,” he said. “There’s no agenda. There’s nothing other than, ‘Let’s help people do the best version of this and to have the most fun that they can doing it.’”

Read the full story about how Rob helped students last weekend in preparation for their upcoming performance in the Jan. 30, 2020 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.