Acting Teacher Ric Murphy

Q&A with Legendary Acting Teacher Ric Murphy

Ric Murphy has taught acting for nearly four decades. His pupils include some all-star actors: John C. Reilly, Gillian Anderson, and Judy Greer.

Ric first introduced me to the magic of improvisational acting techniques at the DePaul Theater School, where he is Professor Emeritus.

We are thrilled to have Ric teach at the studio to support our commitment to offer MFA-caliber actor training at affordable, working actor prices. Ric occasionally teaches the 12-week AdlerImprov Intensive and co-teaches the Sunday Advanced AdlerImprov class.
We sat down with Ric to learn more about why he became a teacher, what he loves about teaching, why he believes improvisation is critical to acting, and what you should expect as a student.
AI: Why did you start teaching? How did you select that career path? When did you know you wanted to teach actors and acting technique?
Ric: It was always teaching. I have no idea why. An astrologer once told me teaching was an unavoidable encounter in my life. It felt like that. There were competing possibilities for sure. And doubts. And I have been tested over the years by crises points in my life. But teaching always  supplies the path. It is where I learn. We give birth and we teach. What else is there?
AI: What do you love most about teaching?
Ric: When my first son was born the delivering physician, a man in his fifties with years of experience, bounded down the stairs with the news. His eyes were shining and he was experiencing the unmistakable thrill of the miraculous. “It’s a boy!” That moment of birth, the emergence of a new reality. I take this to be the high water mark of the teaching/learning experience. There is nothing quite like it—a  treasured moment.
AI: When did you start teaching Viola Spolin’s improv games?
Ric: In 1964,  a part of my assistant-ship in graduate school was working in the theatre school’s library. Viola Spolin’s extraordinary book, “Improvisation for the Theatre” arrived one day. That book, her vision, continues to shape my life today.
AI: Why did you choose her approach?
Ric: “Half our pleasure in seeing a play lies in our knowledge that we are in the presence of artists,” said  American scenic, lighting, and costume designer Robert Edmond Jones. The players and what is played—the full theatre experience. In Spolin’s approach this double pleasure is deeply woven into the moment to moment fabric of the theatre experience. The player plays. We are witness to what Jones calls, “The miracle of incarnation.” And we are there. And we are given the  only real gift the actor possesses—the gift of Presence.
AI: Why are the games so useful in helping actors improve their craft?
Ric: The games introduce the player to himself through the physical language of the stage. He/she discovers what he/she sees, how he/she sees, why he/she sees—he/she inhabits, in a fully conscious way, his/her vision. And we—his/her audience—are the benefactors.
AI: What should students expect from the teaching?
Ric: The student new to improvisation should expect nothing less than the unexpected. It is the nature of theatre. This is a world in which the precious moments—the mishaps, the accidents, the flukes and the serendipitous—rule the roost.  And in these off balance moments, on the edge of the unknown, the genii begins to emerge. The air in the room shifts and the magic begins to emerge—it’s one surprise after another.
To learn more about our approach to improvisation, how to improvise within scripted TV and film scenes, or to sign up for classes, please contact us.