Rella Jr., Richard. “Powerful Influences, Decisions, and Memories.” Backstage 1-7 Jul. 2010: Vol. 51, No. 26

With the celebration of Father’s Day recently passing, I have to share with you some stories of the most important influence in my life. If it wasn’t for my father’s unwavering support and encouragement, I would never be an actor.

My father was an actor and some of my earliest memories are of his performances. I still vividly remember watching him as he swash buckled about the stage in the “Pirates of Penzance.” I remember going back stage after performances as he would customarily give me a tour of the theater’s facility. Everything seemed so big to me then. The stage seemed like a vast jungle of creativity reaching to the heavens and the actors that I was introduced to were some of the most exciting and kindest grown-ups that I would ever meet.

My father also took me to my first Broadway show, “Me and My Girl” starring Robert Lindsay. I remember going into Manhattan for the first time and holding my father’s hand as we squeezed through the Times Square maze of pedestrian traffic. I was terrified as I was bumped and jostled but I was constantly reassured by my father’s backward glances toward me. He was sharing something special with me and I trusted him implicitly.

When I was in high school my father continued to foster my interest in the arts. He helped me choose audition material for the school musicals and coached me once I was cast. I would spend countless hours by the piano perfecting my roles as my father would hammer out my part until I could sing it without any accompaniment at all. He introduced me to making strong, active choices in my scene work and would lecture me about the dedication that I oftentimes lacked.

My father wanted me to be a well rounded performer. I was gifted with the innate ability to sing so he suggested that I attend a strong academic university. I could not care less at the time. I was a very angry high school senior who wanted nothing to do with college. I wanted to get out into the world and start working but my father insisted that I learn from his mistakes as well as prepare myself for longevity in the field. He sent me to Fordham University, Brooklyn College, the Manhattan School of Music, and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. He felt that learning from such diverse masters could teach me things that he had neither learned nor could teach me himself.

Even today, he continues to remind me of the perseverance that I need to have. As I complain about my lack of “success” he constantly encourages me to enjoy the many blessings that I have all around me. And most importantly, he reminds me that my great grandfather came to America from Italy knowing no one and having nothing. He came here because he believed that in America you could follow your dream, whatever it may be, and if you were not doing that than you were not being true to who you are. I am ever so grateful to my father. I do not know who or where I would be today without this man. Thank you dad, I love you.