Wildcat Tracks: Dustin Reppell ’00
Who knew that an early penchant for humor would predict the future for Dustin Reppell? “Since I was a little kid, making people laugh was something I was really good at doing,” he says. “There was a new girl in my kindergarten class and I had a crush on her. One day I tried to put my coat on, but somehow it was upside down. She noticed and started laughing, so then I thought of every way possible to put the coat on incorrectly. By the time I was putting my legs through the sleeves, I had the whole class laughing at me and I loved it!” Some might classify that kind of classroom behavior as a waste of time, but Reppell found once he was at Westminster he had a lot in common with one certain class: improv. What started out as natural talent was the beginning of a love for this particular brand of comedy. “Improv is so much about support. Your castmates become a big, extended family.”
While at Westminster, Reppell found that support not only through improv but also from friends and faculty. The WCA Improv group was founded in 1997 by former drama teacher Ila Klemm. “The Klemm family had a big impact on my life,” he says. “They have been a continued source of love and encouragement.” One of his favorite teachers was Bob Vass. “Mr. Vass once told me that I remind him of Jonathan Winters. I never told him how much that meant to me, but my dad, who passed away in 2005, never got to see me perform. Jonathan Winters was one of my dad’s favorites, so that causal, genuine compliment later became like a validation I had always wanted from my dad.” While his father’s passing was a difficult time, Reppell found comfort in teachers Gene Moniz and Mike Parker. “Mr. Parker unexpectedly became a shoulder for me to cry on, literally. I looked up to those teachers like pseudo-parents.”
After a short college stint at Missouri Baptist, Reppell moved to Los Angeles where he joined friends from St. Louis’ City Improv group. “I went through Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and was trained by Andrew Daily and Matt Walsh. It was an incredible experience! I felt at home there until I got a call that my mom wasn’t well. I ended up moving back home to help out.” After a few years of doing independent shows, Reppell came up with the idea to start an Alumni Improv group at Westminster. “I reached out to Tim Dollarhide ’01 and Tony Dipietri ’01, the three of us had come back for Mrs. Klemm’s birthday party show. We then convinced Amity Haugk ’98 to help us get started.” Reppell said. “Once Kelly Klemm Gilbert ’96 got involved, she really helped get us organized. The idea was to put on improv shows and use the profits to produce alumni plays.”
Westminster’s Alumni Improv Group now performs regularly in the Black Box Theatre here on campus. Shows include “Past-Present-Future” nights which bring current improv students and alumni on stage together. As for Reppell, he is now a regular at ComedySportz, a family-friendly improv group. “This summer a cast member and fellow alum from the LA ComedySportz, Ryan Kelly ’12 was in town for a show. We needed a sub so I recommended Mallory Alpert ’10, she came on and blew everyone away!” Reppell said. “The artistic director of our show asked where I found her, I told him Westminster, then I said ‘You know I have more friends, 23 years worth of friends who can be available. There are more WCA alums working on getting cast, so stay tuned!’ ”
Reppell is living out his dream of making people laugh on stage and doing it with people who are much more than just cast mates. “After my dad died, all these people from City Improv and WCA Improv came to the visitation. I mean, I was at my most vulnerable,” said Reppell. “Just about everyone I knew was at the funeral parlor, but it was the most alone I’ve ever felt. My Improv family knew exactly what to say to help me feel normal again. They made me laugh and I had this surreal moment where I realized these people, they get me, this is my family now.”
You can see Dustin Reppell on stage at ComedySportz in St. Charles, Mo. every Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available through their website http://www.cszstlouis.com
This alumni spotlight was originally featured in the October 2018 issue of our alumni newsletter, Wildcat Tracks.