Author: Michael Pijanowski
Bob Rusch left Buffalo shortly after graduating from Buff State with serious doubts about his acting abilities, so he did with any sensible college graduate would do, he hit the road for L.A. He had a false start there, sensed that he was not ready, so he decided to try Chicago. There, he tended bar, honed his craft, and auditioned. He had opportunities with Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Trap Door Theatre. It was there in Chicago where Bob found true happiness: acting for the love of it, rather than chasing an elusive end result.
After five years in Chicago, Bob decided to take another stab at L.A. This time around, success ensued, and after more bartending, auditioning and studying his craft, Bob started to land paid rolls. He got bit parts on ‘Will and Grace’, ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’, and played the part of Skeeter in ‘Sons of Anarchy’. After winning a small amount of cash, Bob took his winnings and founded Sky Pilot Theater Company. He was its artistic director for seven years. He grew the company from 10 people to 50, and by the time he left, the company had its own in house playwright. During his tenure Bob produced over 25 productions.
Bob returned to WNY in 2015, upon the passing of both of his parents. He felt ready for a change, and had a desire to start writing and producing films. He had also heard that the film industry was on the upswing in WNY and the NYS film tax credit was a significant attractor.
But he noticed a lack of acting workshops and classes open to the public, something that was an integral part of his continuing education in L.A. He took it upon himself to fill that void. In September of 2016 he formed Acting Studio 716. The original intention was to create a place for experienced actors to “work out.” But as neophytes began to sign up for classes, Acting Studio 716 added beginner classes.
Bob teamed up with Niki Nowak Tolnay, who teaches intermediate classes, and John Patrick Patti, who teaches beginning classes. Bob is the head instructor, and teaches ongoing scene study classes and other workshops. Like Bob, the other two bring an L.A. / N.Y.C. perspective and experience to the class.
Bob’s goal is to create a welcoming atmosphere where budding actors can get a fundamental education, and experienced actors can work on their chops. He wants to offer a home to anybody who wants to learn or expand their career, one that is fun and affordable. His overarching goal is to build community, a necessity of the collaborative essence of the theater and film arts.
If you’ve ever thought about acting, but were apprehensive about trying, Acting Studio 716 welcomes you. Classes are held at 700 Main, but summer classes will be moving into the Alleyway theater. For more info, check out actingstudio716.com.