"Be disciplined and do the work." That was the advice Jesse Raynes '94 offered theatre majors during a visit to Keene State College last fall as an instructor for three master's classes. It was the same advice he had received years earlier from Ron Spangler, assistant professor of theatre and dance.
The Marlow, New Hampshire, native came home to teach three courses to would-be actors: Audition Preparation, Acting for the Camera, and Business of Acting. No stranger to the spotlight, Raynes excels in the classroom. It's where his passion lies. "I love the classroom. It's the most important place in the world to be," he said.
Raynes has had an impressive career. After graduating from Keene State with a bachelor's degree in theatre, he worked in summer stock and children's theatre, then went to New York City, where he landed a starring role off-Broadway in Take It Easy. Additional roles came his way: Sebastian in Twelfth Night, Prince Aragon in The Merchant of Venice, and Barnaby in Hello Dolly!, among others. He recently finished a season at the Tony Award-winning Utah Shakespearean Festival, where he appeared in Room Service, HMS Pinafore, and The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Then there was Hollywood. Lured by the offer to take a starring role in a television pilot, he relocated and soon landed guest roles in 7th Heaven, Touched by an Angel, Providence, and numerous commercials, only to find, as many struggling actors do, that he needed another job to make ends meet. He became a sales rep for a large insurance broker and was promoted to district sales manager within two months, receiving Rookie of the Year honors. Yet, despite his success, "I wasn't doing what I really wanted to be doing," he said. So he gave up his life in Los Angeles to attend graduate school at the University of Illinois.
At Illinois, the actor Raynes was able to reconnect with his love for teaching. He credits his KSC mentor Ron Spangler with a lot of his success and inspiration. "I've worked with some great talents, and Ron [Spangler] is one of the best. Ron understands the process of an actor. He understands the fundamentals, and I still hear his coaching."
On stage as a KSC teacher last fall, Raynes described his experiences in show business with disarming modesty. "Acting is just that – a business. You have to be clear if this is a hobby for you. Seventy-five percent of this business is determination, so you have to believe in yourself. I've never wanted to be famous. My goal is to be the guy people see in various roles and perhaps they'll say, 'Oh, that guy – he's really good.' Meanwhile, you have to have a thirst for knowledge and be willing to seek advice. I do the work, and I show up."
Jesse now lives in New York City, where is he working in production on a TV show for the TLC network, producing an off-Broadway play, developing a TV pilot, and auditioning for film, TV, and theatre.
Jeffrey J. LaValley is the director of Alumni and Parent Relations at Keene State College.