Richard Ooms

It was 7 pm at the downtown central library in Minneapolis. A small gathering occurs on the second floor to pay tribute to Richard Ooms who is an actor. He will be discussing acting in theater. The event is well attended.

Richard Ooms has a long and distinguished career, most of it with the Guthrie theater.

Richard Ooms works primarily with the Guthrie theater. He is a professional actor who is active in both Broadway and off-Broadway productions. Since 1981 he has been a cast member at the Guthrie

Richard Ooms is a character actor. He was born in Chicago and grew up in Roselawn. He grew up as a Calvanist, but later broke with the church.  He is the oldest of seven children- though he has a twin sister.

From a young age he felt something about theater always in his being. Coming from a large family, he noticed how much attention he received when he was performing as a child. He enjoyed the attention.

Later in life, he took a job with Marshall Fields where he worked on displays. Eventually, he began attending the art institute in Chicago to hone his displays skills. While attending the school, his classmates pushed him to audition for a part with the Goodman theater. He was relaxed during the audition and it went very well for him. He was offered a four year scholarship to the school.

He describes his schooling as very intensive. There was a very high attrition rate do to the demanding hours and grueling schedule. During his schooling, and through acting in general, he learned to take a lot of criticism.

After his 4 years at Goodman, he was so busy acting, he stopped taking classes. While he was being enticed with acting opportunities, the loss of his student deferment led him to be drafted for the Vietnam war. He tried to get into special services to provide entertainment for the troops, but failed to do so. He ended up in Louisiana at Fort Polk. He wanted to be enlisted to get his service over with in two years.

He trained as a personal specialist in the army and taught typing.  He went to Vietnam in 1968 where he was stationed with the first infantry division. Vietnam was an experience which he won’t forget. It focused him on the life and death situations. Since he was an actor, he availed himself of an opportunity to get out under a provision which benefited seasonal workers. Apparently, actors qualified, and he was able to leave Vietnam just short of 2 years.

Upon his return, he began acting again. Eventually, he moved to New York. The neighborhood he lived in was rife with racial tensions. It was in Boram Hills outside of Brooklyn Heights. He was fortunate to only be paying $95 a month for his apartment. He said he had an excellent landlord who made him feel safe at night. His apartment was near a subway line which also allowed him to get his work done.

He house managed “One flew over the Cuckoos Nest”. He got a job touring for his company and secured unemployment benefits. He ended up involved in a production of Anna Karenina. He worked with a company that required maximum transformative qualities.

He got a lucky break when a poorly attended performance received a rave review from a critic called Mel Gussow. (EDIT: I looked up the review in the New York Times and it appears the review was done by Howard Thompson (MAY 8, 1972 48:1) The reviewer gave praise to Richard Ooms and said Anna K was “genuine theater”. ). The performance ran for six months on the strength of the review.

From the beginning he feels he has had someone watching over him in his profession. He was lucky enough through connections to get moved into a new theater company called John Houseman’s acting company.

Eventually he began working with masks. He was fascinated by their impact on the aging process.

During this time, Richard Ooms did a lot of touring. He began to enjoy touring as an actor. In many cases, he spent enough time in each place to actually feel that he belonged to each town he spent time in. He enjoyed his touring and got a chance to see great parts of the country.

Eventually, he met his wife Claudia. While at rehearsals they began dancing together. They also became seatmates. It was necessary for two people on the bus to sit next to each other, and Richard decided he would sit next to Claudia.

Unfortuantely, Claudia was cut on rather short notice from the theater company. This upset Richard Ooms. Eventually, Richard quit over this. He announced his decision the day before rehearsals were to be announced. The basis for his decision was to marry Claudia.

The theater company was happy to hear about the marriage and many attended his wedding. The next season, Claudia and Peter were leads. It was a year of really getting to know each other.

Eventually, Claudia gets pregnant. She worked through much of her pregnancy. Richard and Claudia end up in Australia for a while raising their newborn.

Ultimately, Richard Ooms gets an opportunity to work with the Guthrie theater. It is the beginning of a very long successful relationship with the theater.

He is very happy to be in a community like Minnesota that supports the theater. He relishes the opportunities he had to perform repoitorie theater.

After his speech, Richard Ooms is asked to recite a poem by Yeates. It takes him a moment to recall the specific poem, but then he goes right into it, sharing his talents with everyone in attendance.

It is clear that Richard Ooms feels very lucky to have had the opportunities he did. He loves his wife very much. Even after all these years of acting, it is clear that Richard Ooms is passionately looking forward to continuing his acting.

3 Responses to “Richard Ooms”

  1. Corey Mahoney Says:

    Tore, this was three hours wasted listening to some theater stooge when you could have been working to save Dollhouse. Focus.

  2. Al Peters Says:

    Richard, Many times I have wondered where you are and what you are doing? (I quess that the internet has some redeeming value after all!) I am in NYC living with my Lisa on 14th Street and teaching and PAINTING! Please call me if you wish to—and, if not, Very Best from Al Peters

    • FYI, this is a story on Richard Ooms, this is not Richard Ooms. If you want to get in touch with Richard Ooms, your best bet would be to contact the Guthrie.

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