Casa Grande High School senior Ian Runge, 18, enjoys acting and playing the guitar. Press Democrat photo by Beth Schlanker


Ian Runge had never attended a school with more than 100 students before he stepped as an awkward freshman onto Casa Grade High School’s sprawling campus.
He’d spent his elementary and middle school years cloistered in small private Christian schools. Being thrown into a sea of more than 2,000 students in Petaluma was initially unsettling.
“Definitely just the size of Casa was a bit of a shock,” Runge said.
But it didn’t take long for Runge to take center stage, quickly becoming an academic and social standout.
“From the moment he entered my freshman English classroom, a stranger with no friends at Casa, Ian was the center of attention,” recalled his English and journalism instructor, Gay Robbins. “People want to be around him because he is such a joy.”
Now a college-bound senior, Runge has grown into his role as leading man on campus.
He has played a major role in every production put on by the school’s<QA0>
Theater Department, from influential nobleman Don Pedro in “Much Ado About Nothing” to the slovenly<QA0>
sportswriter Oscar Madison in “The Odd Couple.”
“I love embodying a character who is different from me,” Runge said.
And yet the role he has enjoyed the most has been one playing a character closer to himself, George Gibbs in “Our Town.”
The complexity of the role, of an upstanding all-American teenager who later marries his high school sweetheart only to have her die in childbirth, proved both challenging and thought provoking.
“I really loved playing roles that were nothing like me, but then George came along,” Runge said. “I just felt a profound connection to him.”
He’s now performing in “Almost Maine,” which opened last weekend.
He’s not sure where he caught the acting bug. It certainly wasn’t from his parents, who are more scientifically inclined, he said. His father, Andrew, is an embryologist at UC San Francisco Medical Center and his mother, Tina, is a nurse at Palm Drive Hospital.
While in middle school at Petaluma Christian Academy, his class studied a unit on Renaissance, and he “fell in love with Shakespeare,” first performing “The Bard” with Kate Kennedy at the Sonoma Shakespeare Company.
Acting isn’t just a lark. Runge hopes to break into film acting, and so plans to study acting at one of two schools in Los Angeles to which he’s been accepted — California Lutheran University and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.
It acting doesn’t pan out, perhaps one of Runge’s other creative endeavors will.
When he’s not going to movies or playing video games with friends, Runge is lead singer and songwriter for Frenzied, an alternative band that won Casa’s Battle of the Bands last year. He plays rhythm guitar alongside his younger brother, Alec, who plays bass.
The band’s next gig is at the Phoenix in late March.
He’s also been active on the staff of the school newspaper, the Gaucho Gazette, working as a copy editor.
For now, however, acting remains front and center in terms of his career aspirations. He knows breaking into the movies is a long shot but doesn’t spend a lot of time fretting about it. It’s what he loves, and if God wants it for him, it will happen.
“I don’t worry a lot about the odds,” Runge said. “I do have faith in myself.”
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or