Earlier this summer, our Marketing Intern took it upon herself to make sure that you, our friends and patrons, get to know our staff a little bit more. She's gone back to school for her senior year, but we have a new Marketing Intern, Connor Norton, joining us for our upcoming season! He'll be continuing our Staff Spotlight Series, and up next he's interviewing Ryan Clemens, our Resident Theatre Artist.
VSC patrons may remember Ryan as Vinnie in The Odd Couple, Fezziwig and Old Joe in A Christmas Carol, Mortimer in The Fantasticks, or his famous relative Sam Clemens in his one-man show Meet Mark Twain. Originally from Wyoming, Ryan began his career in a traveling Wild West show. He has worked at theaters around the country, including three seasons locally with the Virginia Shakespeare Festival. Ryan holds a BA in Theatre from Western Washington University and an MFA in Acting from Regent University.
Marketing Intern: How did you come to work for Virginia Stage Company?
Ryan Clemens: I began with Virginia Stage in 2010, working with the Education Team and also developing my one man show Meet Mark Twain.
MI: Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
RC: I grew up in Wyoming. I was enamored with the few traveling performers who would bring their shows to our little, little town. In fact, with the support of my very patient mother, I put together my own Wild West Show when I was just 16 years old. Enlisting a number of friends to join in on a grand summer adventure, we spent a wonderful few months traveling around in my grandpa’s old ranch truck, performing cowboy poetry, rope tricks, and the melodrama Wild Bill & Calamity Jane. We’d whoop up a show at county fairs, state parks, or any place that would allow us to put on a play and pass the hat. From these Wild West beginnings, I would find myself working and learning in various spots around the country: at amusement parks, in summer theaters, at community colleges or universities, at Shakespeare festivals, with improv troupes, and, of course, at our beloved Virginia Stage Company.
MI: If you could produce an original show, what would it be?
RC: Well, with thanks to Patrick Mullins and others at Virginia Stage, I have done just that. My show, Meet Mark Twain, affords me the pleasure of visiting schools, libraries, country clubs, conferences, etc., all over Hampton Roads and beyond. Folks from ages 10 to 110 enjoy seeing my collection of costumes, wigs, and mustaches and watching me transform into a myriad of Twain’s characters, sharing the stories, wit, and wisdom of my famous relative Samuel L. Clemens.
MI: Where is your favorite place to grab lunch in downtown Norfolk?
RC: Oh my. I like so many places downtown, but when I’ve a chance to run out for a bite, I think first of the breakfasty goodies at Granby Bistro or the burgers and honky-tonk ambiance of Jack Brown’s.
MI: Favorite oxymoron?
RC: Ummm…I guess that blue one? Paul Bunyan’s “Babe?” Although, I don’t know if he can be called a moron.
MI: What has changed here at Virginia Stage Company since you first began?
RC: A great many things have changed in my seven years with the company. For example, with Ron Newman at the helm of our Education and Community Engagement Department, I’ve seen the size and scope of our programs expand and, at the same time, become more accessible. (Thanks to generous donors, grants, and partnerships, a great many of our touring, in-school performances, and workshops are presented to students for FREE.) Additionally, our many Resident Artists, with their various passions and talents, are finding greater opportunities to serve Virginia Stage and our community.
MI: What are you looking forward to most this season?
RC: I’m looking forward to a number of shows this season, but if I’m answering genuinely, my shameful vanity insists I mention again my Mark Twain show. I look forward to every Mark Twain performance as a chance to celebrate Twain’s life and works, my own love of theatre, and the good people of all ages who come to enjoy a little, nineteenth-century-styled entertainment.
MI: Where is your favorite place to be in the world and why?
RC: I love the meandering highway along the red rock cliffs of South Pass. I love the fresh salt air and the island speckled waters of the Puget Sound. I love this dilapidated, old saloon named Pete’s Rock & Rye, where Stan the owner/bartender/philosopher keeps a library of books behind the bar and loads the jukebox with his favorite blues, zydeco, and cowboy tunes. Most of all, I just love any place where there are my wife, my cat, a little sunshine, and friends who will share in some dumb jokes.