Alice Ripley had a reputation even before she set foot in West Carrollton High School for the very first time.
Her proud older brother and stepsister had already warned everyone about the incoming junior.
“(They said) she’s going to get the lead in the musical, so everybody get ready. My brother (Scott) told all of his friends, and they were just rolling their eyes,” she said.
WINNING THEM OVER
Now a Tony Award winner and multiple award nominee, Ripley said she managed to not only win the role, but to win over her classmates.
“They tried to hate me, but you really can’t hate me. I was voted everybody’s buddy,” she said, smiling. “Once they saw me in the role, they were like ‘Wow, maybe she should have gotten that part … When Scott Ripley warns you about something, take him seriously because he means it.”’
Ripley recently won a spot among the 21 speakers set to perform at this year’s sixth annual TEDxDayton. The sold-out event is set for 1 to 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12, at the Victoria Theatre in downtown Dayton.
“They tell you at the beginning that it is the most incredible creative experience you will ever go through, and I have to say, it is right up there. It is unlike anything I ever experienced creatively,” Ripley said. “It is similar to when I was in a band. Everybody pitches in and you take the best ideas, but all the material is coming out of me.”
She will discuss how she transforms into a character at TEDxDayton and how to apply those skills to life.
WINNING THE FIELD
Musician and retired Dayton police officer Chelley Seibert, a TEDxDayton volunteer and former speaker, encouraged her to apply.
The women have been friends since high school, where Seibert was a drum major and Ripley was the school’s first female mascot, a pirate.
“I had to be on the stage. I had to be on the field somehow, be in the center, be seen,” Ripley said.
She relished in the pirate role.
“It was really just a matter of posing like a pirate and going crazy when something went great and being sad when something went wrong,” Ripley remembered.
WINNING THE STAGE
She was born in California and raised in Lakewood near Cleveland before moving to West Carrollton to live with her now late father and stepmother, Ripley said.
She’s the middle of 11 children in the blended family. She visits the area frequently to visit siblings and her stepmother, Jo Ann Ripley of Springboro.
“When I was 10 and somebody asked me what do you want to do when you grow up and I said I wanted to be an actor, they would laugh and they would say, ‘what do you really want to do,” she said. “You have that fire inside that says, ‘I guess I am going to have to show them that I have something special’.”
She always was attracted to the stage and landed her first role — a monkey in the “Wizard of Oz” — at age 12 or 13 in the Cleveland area.
She had never met an actor and didn’t see her first Broadway show until she was in her 20s, but Ripley said she knew the stage was for her.
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“I just knew that I wanted that family of the theater,” she said. “(Being the middle child of so many) might have something to do with it, but also when I was a kid, I had a voice that would make people stop what they were doing and turn and look.”
Ripley received a degree in musical theater from Kent State University in 1985 and worked in summer stock before making her way to New York.
Also an accomplished musician and producer, she created the roles of Mrs. Bateman/Mrs. Wolfe as part of the original Broadway cast of “American Psycho” in 2016.
On Broadway, she also played the original Janet in “The Rocky Horror Show,” Molly Ivors in James Joyce’s “The Dead,” Bathsheba in “King David,” Betty Schaefer in the original “Sunset Boulevard,” and the Specialist’s Assistant in “The Who’s Tommy.
Ripley also portrayed Fantine in the original “Les Misérables” at the Imperial Theatre.
In 1998, she was co-nominated for best actress in a musical Tony with Emily Skinner for “Side Show,” in which the women played conjoined twins Daisy and Violet.
WINNING THE TONY
She earned the best actress Tony in 2009 for her work as Diana in the Pulitzer Prize-winning rock musical “Next to Normal.”
Riley, who played Sophia on the 2017 Netflix comedy series “Girlboss,” says the honors make her feel better when she is feeling in the dumps.
She put in the work for them.
“By the time I won my Tony, I was really an integral part of the (theater) community and had worked with everybody and had done so many things,” she said. “That was a great time to get it as opposed to right out of the cannon when I first came to the city. I don’t know if I would have appreciated it as much.”