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2021 Jun

Va. Stage’s Ryan Clemens

Bringing live theatre to young people in our community

Ryan Clemens is Virginia Stage Company’s Lead Resident Theatre Artist. He performs on stage and contributes behind the scenes as well. Ryan is very involved in the Education Department. He drafts scripts and adapts plays for school tours. He also creates the curriculum and teaches educational theatre classes and summer camps. Recently Maris Smith asked Ryan to tell us a little more about himself.           

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love being a part of the Virginia Stage Company and am quite proud to be helping bring the experience of live theatre to the young people in our community. 

How long have you been working at Virginia Stage Company?

I’ve got about 11 years working at VSC, both in our Education Department and, from time to time, in productions on stage at the Wells Theatre. 

Tell us about your background: where you were raised, went to school, career, family, etc?

I grew up in a corner of Wyoming, just me and some cows. It was a great place to grow a playful imagination. I toured in a Wild West Show, performed in various summer theatres and rock bands. I went to school in Wyoming, then Washington State, and then came to Virginia to gain my MFA degree in theatre. Along the way, I married my brilliant wife, Sonja. In addition to my VSC work, I teach at ODU, do improv comedy, and regularly perform as Mark Twain in my one-man show.

How did you become interested in theater?

As a boy in Wyoming, I was very fortunate to know a teacher/playwright who put together summer play projects for the community’s youth. My starring role was as Buffalo Bill at the Goshen County Fair, where I received rave reviews such as, “I like the fringe on your coat,” and “You were the only one we could hear! Good job!”

What has it been like for you performing and teaching during the pandemic?

It’s been a different experience, one that has reinforced the value of “working with what’s given.” Admittedly, I was rather resistant to the idea of doing classes, camps, performances, etc. on online platforms like Zoom. How could we find the essential “liveness” of the theatre experience online? But it didn’t take me long to realize that, regardless of the venue, there are always things to learn, stories to be told, and connections to create. 

What can campers expect this summer from VSC Summer Camps?

Fun. Creativity. Friendship. We are all about “creative collaboration” in our camps, working together to build ideas into productions and encouraging ourselves and our fellow performers in the exploration of our talents.

How can parents help develop a love of arts in their children?

Go out and experience art together! Make a special event of going to a museum, a play, etc. And think and talk about it together. Ask one another what you thought; what you liked; what you didn’t like; what ideas, feelings, and inspirations were evoked. Sometimes the best part of experiencing art is having someone to share it with.

What are you looking forward to next with VSC?

I’m looking forward to people returning to the Wells Theatre and enjoying shows on stage, without worry, and with the freedom to truly immerse themselves and their thoughts in the production.

Maris Smith is the marketing director for Virginia Stage Company, Visit www.vastage.org for more information. 

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