RDC film instructor Larry Reese steps down after three decades

Being an relevant instructor means being a lifetime student, he says

In 30 years of teaching film and stage acting, Red Deer College instructor Larry Reese has never stopped learning.

Whether taking night classes in visual arts, or soaking up knowledge about film sets through his on-screen appearances in movies, including the Oscar-winners Brokeback Mountain and Unforgiven, Reese believes there’s value in being a lifetime student.

“You always need to be pertinent,” he explained. Staying on top of things “has kept me driven, kept me exploring…”

But after three decades at RDC, Reese is ready to set a new course.

He’ll be retiring at the end of June to devote more time to his visual art and to volunteering for altruistic causes. He isn’t ruling out new acting or directing opportunities — Reese is open to any intriguing projects that come along.

Although he will miss his students and co-workers when he leaves RDC, “I’ve spent 63 of my 65 years in school” (since started pre-school at age three), and believes it’s time to pursue other interests.

The Masters graduate of Brandeis University near Boston, started at Red Deer College in 1987 after a temporary teaching stint at the University of Alberta.

He still remembers popping what he thought was a breath mint before his job interview with former theatre studies head Richard O’Brien. It turned out to be a Tums tablet, and “I saw that my whole tongue was green! I thought that was my ruin, but it wasn’t…”

Reese got the job and developed great working relationships with O’Brien and other RDC colleagues— first in theatre — where he got to experiment with avant-garde shows, including nudity and special effects in the Marowitz Macbeth and Grapes of Wrath — then in Motion Picture Arts.

Reese and fellow RDC instructor Don Armstrong (now head of MPA production), co-developed the local film program in 2001 after realizing a strong student demand exists. They were also inspired by their success in jointly creating Naked Frailties, an RDC-made movie that was seen around the world and still airs on TV.

Reese, who also made the 2012 documentary Mapping Creativity, considers Armstrong and MPA instructor James Wilson (an RDC MPA graduate) “my brothers.”

As the husband of RDC theatre instructor Tanya Ryga and father of their two children. (Daughter, Rivera Reese, is an RDC grad who’s now acting in New York City), Reese liked being able to balance his work and family responsibilities while at RDC.

Having mentored many young people, both in the classroom, and at times as a stand-in counsellor when they’ve had personal difficulties, Reese is gratified whenever a former student says, “I learned this… while at RDC and it’s been important in my life.”


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