Penn State alumnus Richard Spitaletta: ‘Stay focused on yourself’

By Audrey Sakhnovsky
October 17, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State musical theatre alumnus Richard Spitaletta is making strides in New York City and showing just how limitless one’s post-Penn State career can be.

Since graduating in 2016, Spitaletta has established himself as a dedicated performer in the Big Apple and on the road. And that’s no joke — he’s in his early 20s and already a major character in a touring Broadway musical ensemble cast.

In a recent Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State email interview, Spitaletta said he has been able to find success and grow as a performer through the multiple touring shows he’s done — such as the first national tour of “A Charlie Brown Christmas Live” — and his willingness to put in the work with smaller-scale shows.

After recently appearing in the Off-Broadway production “Me the People,” in which he and a few castmates played various political figures doing song and dance, Spitaletta is expanding his comedic repertoire. He has taken improv classes with the Upright Citizens Brigade and has posted his own comedy shorts on Twitter.

Finding a way to fuse his comedy and musical theater passions once again, Spitaletta will visit his alma mater in “Something Rotten!” at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7 at Eisenhower Auditorium. In the nationally touring Broadway production, Spitaletta plays Nigel Bottom, a playwright who joins his brother to beat Will Shakespeare in creating the world’s first musical.

A group of men wearing matching sweaters stand in a huddle around the Nittany Lion mascot, make a "No. 1" gesture with their hands and smile for the camera.

“Something Rotten!” cast member Richard Spitaletta, shown kneeling at right with Penn State a cappella group The Statesman, said he is anticipating his return to Penn State for the first time since graduating in 2016. “I miss it so much,” he said in an interview with the Center for the Performing Arts. “I can’t wait to take the cast on a mini tour of Penn State’s greatest hits—Mad Mex being one of them for sure.”

IMAGE: Photo provided

The State College performance will mark Spitaletta’s first time back at Penn State since he graduated.

“I miss it so much,” he said. “I can’t wait to take the cast on a mini tour of Penn State’s greatest hits — Mad Mex being one of them for sure.”

Spitaletta talks below about his progress as a performer and his excitement to get back to his college town roots.

Question: This is the third national tour you’ve been in since graduating. What’s your favorite place you’ve visited?

Answer: There’s this magical city in Oregon called Bend, and it is truly one of the most incredible places I have ever been. It’s this adorable town filled with artists, hippies and outdoorsy types at the base of a mountain that is covered with snow for the majority of the year. I was on a sleeper bus tour last year around this time, where you essentially have your own cabin/bed, sleep through your travel during the night and wake up somewhere new every day. Waking up in Bend, Oregon, was truly one of the highlights of that experience. In addition, I loved Fort Collins, Colorado; Billings, Montana; and Flagstaff, Arizona, where we were able to drive to the Grand Canyon.

Q: Do you prefer doing touring shows to typical theater runs? What do you enjoy about being on tour?

A: There are wonderful things about both touring and extended runs in one location. Touring is really incredible because it’s an opportunity to travel the country and see places you most likely would never visit. I always make a point to be very adventurous when on tour because you really don’t know when you’ll have the opportunity to return. I know for a fact I would not have visited Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, etc., at this point in my life if I hadn’t been lucky enough to book work that took me there. It really can be a life-changing adventure. However, living out of a suitcase for months can be exhausting, and over time you really start to crave roots and a sense of stability. When you do an extended run either in New York City or at a regional theater, it’s much easier to establish a routine and sense of normalcy.

Q: You’ve taken some improv and sketch comedy classes with the Upright Citizens Brigade. What or who inspired you to try it out?

A: I absolutely love the world of sketch/improv. The show I did Off-Broadway last year was a political musical parody called “Me the People.” There were only four cast members, and we all played around 12 characters each. I played Jared Kushner, Paul Ryan, Richard Nixon, etc. That was the first time I was really challenged to look at my work through the lens of a comedian and not so much a musical theater performer. Slowly over time, after living in that world for the summer, I started writing my own material, and not long after I started making small shorts.

Q: What advice do you have for the upcoming graduating class of musical theatre majors?

A: My advice to the graduating class of musical theatre students is to stay focused on yourself. It’s really easy to start looking sideways when you get to New York City and compare yourself to what everyone else is doing. But what really matters is where you are on your journey, because everyone’s journey is relative and unique to them specifically.

I also really recommend taking the work/opportunity in front of you at the moment. I’ve definitely worked some difficult contracts over the past couple of years, but I’ve also had a really nice arc in terms of work I’ve been able to book. My first tour, we were all constructing/breaking down sets, doing the show laundry and driving the vans. Two years later, that experience makes me even more grateful for the opportunity in front of me now.

And lastly, I would advise any performer to have something separate from performing that makes them happy. For me, I have really found that in my writing and am so grateful for a new creative outlet to explore. I truly believe the more interest you take in the world around you, the more of a fully fleshed out performer you will be.

Audrey Sakhnovsky, a Penn State senior majoring in journalism and English and minoring in psychology, is a marketing and communications intern at the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 25, 2018