Alum spotlight: Raynor Scheine (BFA ’70)

collage of photos

Raynor Scheine BFA in Performance, 1970

Photo by Scott Elmquist for Style Weekly

Raynor changed his last name from Johnston to Scheine (pronounced like “shine”) shortly after graduating from VCU. He felt, “It had a catchy ring to it and would probably open some eyes or doors.” When asked about the new last name, he replies, “I used to have a boring last name,” and when people asked what it was, Raynor replies…”Snow”.

Raynor in a VCU production of Caligula

He found out about VCU because his brother dated June Harding, an early RPI grad who later became a successful Hollywood actor (her IMDB). Raynor saw her “as someone who could make it.”

At the time, VCU had started “The Company,” which was a sort of conservatory program for upperclassmen, but “they said I wasn’t good enough to be in it.” Needless to say, that was an error in judgment from the faculty.

Raynor in a VCU production of Waiting for Godot

After graduating Raynor started acting in DC, where he worked in most every area theatre. In 1973, his girlfriend at the time Kathy Bates (yes, THAT Kathy Bates) moved to New York, so he went up to visit. But, he decided, “to get Hollywood out of my mind first,” so he spent a year on the West Coast. Eventually, he headed back to NYC, where one of his first roles was Wesley (U/S) in the New York Shakespeare Festival’s original run of Sam Shepard’s Curse of the Starving Class.

(L to R) Grant Varjas, Raynor Scheine, Jim Parsons and William Atherton in Fishelson’s version of Franz Kafka’s The Castle at Manhattan Ensemble Theatre, 2002.

Raynor also holds a unique place in the productions of August Wilson’s plays, playing some of Wilson’s few white characters. He was in the Broadway productions of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone and Gem of the Ocean. Raynor was also in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom in the 2008 tribute to Wilson at the Kennedy Center. It turns out that Theresa Merritt, who played Ma Rainey in the original cast, was from Raynor’s hometown of Emporia, VA. His last play was in 2013, when he returned to a production of Joe Turner directed by Phylicia Rashad at the Mark Taper Forum.

(L to R) Glynn Turman, Raynor Scheine, Keith David, Erica Tazel and Lillias White in August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, directed by Phylicia Rashad, at the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum, 2013. Photo by Craig Schwartz

As for his pivot to screen work, “Theatre was my main goal and as soon as I got my pension, l started concentrating on TV and movies. Now I have SAG and AFTRA pensions.” He’s worked with numerous stars in an abundance of films, but he’s been taking it easy in the last decade in Ashland, VA with Jan Dolan, “walking the dogs, growing flowers and vegetables.”

Raynor in My Cousin Vinny with Joe Pesci

Comparing theatre to screen, Raynor states, “I love the camaraderie of theatre, but there aren’t residual checks!” When Shafer Street Theatre was renovated in 1999, several alum sponsored rehearsal studios, but Raynor opted for the basement space that used to be the makeup room. He explains, “I don’t want to put my name on anything where a student has to take a test and be nervous. I always enjoyed the camaraderie of the dressing room.” The space is still used by SALT for shows in Newdick.

Raynor as Ratsy in The Quick and the Dead with Russell Crowe, 1995

Raynor sums up his career, “My goal was to do good work with good people and directors and writers, so tried to stay away from doing too much junk and was successful in that for the most part.”

Raynor as Sheriff Curtis Smoot in Fried Green Tomatoes

Header image (clockwise from top left): still from Fried Green Tomatoes, 1991; Raynor in Charles Fuller’s Prince with Samuel L. Jackson and Larry Sharp, 1988; Raynor in Waiting for Godot at VCU; Raynor in Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear, 1991; Raynor with Richard Dreyfuss in The Lady or the Tiger a one-act by Shel Silverstein, 1981; still from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective with Jim Carrey, 1994.

Compiled by Liz Hopper, professor emeritus, and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the July 2021 Theatre Alumni Newsletter.