FARGO — As a kid growing up near Nashville, Tenn., Ryan Scoble, actor, director and assistant professor of musical theater at North Dakota State University, thought he was going to follow in his great-grandfather’s footsteps and become an animator for Disney.

It took just one performance of “Pippin” in junior high for him to change his career path.

“I just got bit by the bug,” he said.

Scoble moved to the area after pursuing countless acting gigs while studying at NYU and Kent State. He now teaches a full load at NDSU where he became assistant professor in January 2020 and is also the managing artistic director for Gooseberry Park Players.

Despite the restrictions in place due to COVID, Scoble’s local presence in the community's arts scene has already been one of great influence. Thoughtful and inclusive, he hopes art will continue to be a salve to our collective pandemic-inflicted wounds.

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“I actually think this year has been harder in terms of teaching, because people have been through, you know, a year and a half of trauma. I know, we don't like to acknowledge that. But it's been traumatic for everybody,” he said. “But I think art is a real healer.”

Playing the parts

If you’ve been to recent live performances in the area, chances are you may have sighted Scoble either on or off the stage. He cut his local directing teeth with “Jekyll and Hyde” at NDSU, as well as “Beauty and the Beast,” which he co-choreographed, for Gooseberry Park Players this summer. He also directed choreography for “The Producers” at NDSU and Gooseberry Park Players’ summer showing of “Annie.”

He choreographed “Edges: A Song Cycle” for Theatre NDSU, as well as “Guys & Dolls” at Fargo South High School (opening Wednesday, Nov. 17). He will also be heavily involved in choreography for “Yule Be Jolly: A Holiday Cabaret” at Theatre B later this month and into December.

Ryan Scoble in "The Music Man" at Kent State University's Porthouse Theatre. Photo courtesy of Ryan Scoble / Special to The Forum
Ryan Scoble in "The Music Man" at Kent State University's Porthouse Theatre. Photo courtesy of Ryan Scoble / Special to The Forum

First acts

With his love of live performance sparked by “Pippin,” Scoble’s early acting career took off pretty quickly, a success he attributes more to hard work and studying than sheer talent.

“I studied all the time and I just kind of tried to take in as much as I could,” he said.

By the end of high school, Scoble had performed in nearly 20 shows and was often chosen to be the understudy for classmate and country music star Chris Young.

“Growing up near Nashville, there were a lot of really, really great singers, a lot of great talent,” Scoble said. “And I did OK during high school in terms of shows and having roles, but I wasn't the star of my high school program. A lot of people were kind of shocked when I wanted to pursue this.”

Ryan Scoble in "Parade" at Kent State University. Photo courtesy of Ryan Scoble / Special to The Forum
Ryan Scoble in "Parade" at Kent State University. Photo courtesy of Ryan Scoble / Special to The Forum

Changing scenes

Due to his innate studious nature, Scoble also earned the title of valedictorian for his graduating class and was accepted to NYU’s Steinhardt School where he went on to pursue a degree in vocal performance with an emphasis in musical theater.

With acting and directing parts too numerous to list here, Scoble made a decent career for himself in New York for about 14 years before deciding to change directions. His lifelong love of learning won his heart and he enrolled in graduate school at The City College of New York (CUNY) where he earned a master's degree in educational theater, which certified him as a K-12 theater instructor in New York State. He then went on to get an master's in acting from Kent State just before he was hired at NDSU, a position he’s delighted to have and does not take lightly.

Ryan Scoble in "Hair" at Kent State. Photo courtesy of Ryan Scoble / Special to The Forum
Ryan Scoble in "Hair" at Kent State. Photo courtesy of Ryan Scoble / Special to The Forum

“I really wanted to teach at the college level. I wanted to teach with kids who were super passionate about it, who wanted to pursue it as a career,” he said. With a teaching load of three classes per semester, it gives Scoble the chance to impart both his academic and onstage experience onto his students and the community.

“There’s such a big arts scene here,” he said. “There's something different, something remarkable about what happens when seeing something as a community — as a group — and witnessing it together that I think is innately primal in us, and it just unlocks something.”

Ryan Scoble in "Emilie: La Marquise Du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight" at Kent State University. Photo courtesy of Ryan Scoble / Special to The Forum
Ryan Scoble in "Emilie: La Marquise Du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight" at Kent State University. Photo courtesy of Ryan Scoble / Special to The Forum

Just getting started

Since he moved here in the middle of the COVID pandemic, Scoble said he hasn’t gotten a thorough scope of his surroundings just yet, which is something he looks forward to doing in the months to come.

“It's been fun to get to know people here in the community. I think there's such a rich art scene that I was kind of unaware of. It just blows my mind how much is going on. It's quite impressive that it's so important to the community here,” Scoble said.

But mostly, this new-to-us local talent and educator believes that his work and other artists’ work will continue to help heal the community after enduring everything the pandemic handed to us.

“The world doesn't stop because something like this happens,” he said. “But art is a healer, as well. And I think people are wounded. I think people are carrying scars that are pretty deep. And I think it's going to take a lot to get us back to a place where we feel safe, comfortable, energized, excited. Maybe it's because I'm a theater nerd, but I think I think the arts are what's going to get us there.”

Ryan Scoble. Photo courtesy of Ryan Scoble / Special to The Forum
Ryan Scoble. Photo courtesy of Ryan Scoble / Special to The Forum

Upcoming live theater

What: “Guys and Dolls”

When: Nov. 18-21

Where: Fargo South High School

Tickets: https://www.fargo.k12.nd.us/BoxOffice



What: “Yule Be Jolly: A Holiday Cabaret”

When: Nov. 26 to Dec. 12

Where: Theatre B, Moorhead

Tickets: https://www.theatreb.org/box-office/



This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit http://theartspartnership.net.