Swarthmore Alum Brian Ratcliffe Gets into the Act

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Brian Ratcliffe, post-show, in the lobby of Theatre Horizon.

Brian Ratcliffe, a 2011 graduate of Swarthmore College, stars in the terrific production of Kenneth Lonergan’s darkly comic Lobby Hero at Theatre Horizon in Norristown through March 13. He plays Jeff, a security guard in the lobby of a New York apartment building, through a progressively tense set of interactions with three other characters confronting racism, misogyny and injustice.

While at Swarthmore, Brian was both a chemistry major and a frequent performer. “My most memorable play at Swarthmore was Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses, which was the Senior Company production. It was after that that I decided to move to Philadelphia and pursue acting after graduation. My performance career was also strongly influenced by my four-year membership in Swarthmore’s only improv comedy troupe, Vertigo-go.”

The Salt Lake City native has been busy in the intervening years, training with Blanka Zizka and acting in many shows at her Wilma Theater; performing with Theatre Exile, the Philadelphia Artists’ Collective and a number of other companies; and studying with various teachers including Swarthmore professor Quinn Bauriedel and physical and vocal coaching from Attis Theatre founder Theodoros Terzopoulos.

That training and preparation have helped Brian manage the challenges of a role which keeps his character on stage throughout the 2 hour-plus play. “It does demand some vocal endurance, because Jeff talks so much, but … it’s not as demanding as you might think. In fact, I appreciate being on stage the whole time, because I only get performance jitters in the one moment before I step onstage.

“As an actor, I dream of playing characters like Jeff, who is a mess of contradictions,” Brian said, praising Lonergan’s 2001 creation. “Lobby Hero presents complex people confronting enormous challenges, and asks the audience to involve themselves in the struggle. I cherish the opportunity to present characters with this much substance, and to be part of such an important story.”

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