For NEJC native starring in Meg Ryan film, a love of the arts started at small local school

Alex Neustaedter in Ithaca.
Alex Neustaedter in Ithaca.

A few weeks ago, 18-year-old Alex Neustaedter was in the Kansas City area for the debut screening of Ithaca, Meg Ryan’s first feature film as a director, in which he plays the lead role, Homer.

Neustaedter was back on familiar ground. Though the burgeoning actor and his family have lived in Los Angeles for the past five years so Neustaedter can pursue a career in Hollywood, he was raised in northeast Johnson County and credits a small school here with inspiring his love of the arts.

From second to fourth grades, Neustaedter attended Community School #1, which is housed at First Lutheran Church in Mission Hills. The tiny school had only two dozen students when he attended, and provided Neustaedter with the chance to explore his passions at a young age.

“It really opened me up to the arts,” he said. “They gave me the opportunity to find my talents that I didn’t know I had.”

Neustaedter went on to attend classes at Prairie Elementary and then Pembroke Hill for a few years before his family decided to make the move to LA. There, he landed the role of Bram in the well-regarded USA show Colony. With that success on his resume, he was asked to audition for the lead role in Ryan’s movie in the winter of 2014. A couple of weeks later, he got a call from his manager that Ryan wanted to meet him face to face. He got the part, and spent a couple of months in Virginia in the summer of 2014 shooting the film.

Critics haven’t been too kind to Ithaca, which is no longer showing in Kansas City-area theatres. But Neustaedter’s career appears to be on the upward trajectory. And he credits his time at Community School #1 with sparking his passion in acting.

“That was my introduction to acting and the arts,” he said. “It was really special to get to come back and share the movie with people from here and the school.”

The trailer for Ithaca is embedded below: