Before we announce our 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Winners, we are proud to present our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series.
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Ryan Landry is an iconic presence in the Greater Boston theatre scene, most notably known for his outstanding and hilarious work with his company, The Gold Dust Orphans. In Mart Crowley's The Boys in the Band, Ryan's Harold was biting, aloof, and experienced, creating a dynamic and memorable character for a new generation of audiences to appreciate this important play. In his Interview, Ryan talks about the challenges of the Boston theatre scene, his favorite places to relax, and his favorite (and even lucky!) piece of clothing.
Hi, Ryan, and thanks for talking with us at ArtsImpulse. Can you start by introducing yourself to our readers and telling us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Ryan Landry, and I am an alcoholic.
Tell us about your character in Zeitgeist Stage’s The Boys in the Band. Who was he, what did he want, and how did he fit in within this group of men?
I believe Harold to be one part early hippie, one part "Queen Bee" and one part Satan. He has boiled the very essence of “snark” down to its purest form. Yet, he is human, and perhaps the only character in the play living in reality. It seems to me that what he really wants out of life is something he will never have. That would be true love.
True love (in order for it to operate without too many break downs) requires at least a small tinge of innocence. Harold depleted any innocence that he may have once possessed in the experimental follies of his youth. He has now more or less resigned himself to being the captain of his own hopelessly jaded ship.
Do you have a group of friends similar to the men in the play? Did you relate at all to the struggles of these characters? If so, which characters, and why?
Yes, in fact, from the time I came out at the age of fifteen (on the streets of New Haven no less), I hung around with people just like Harold, Michael and Emory. They were the only “teachers” available to us at that time, and we soon learned that it was better to worship at the alter then to talk back. Those who couldn’t keep up with the barbs and daggers being thrown around the room were quickly dismissed. It was almost like being a supporting player in an old Robin Hood movie. If you didn’t know when to duck … you were soon written out of the picture.
What have been some of your biggest challenges in Boston theatre, either as a performer, writer, director, or producer?
My biggest challenge is getting it all done. Getting all these ideas out of my brain and onto the stage within the short time I have left on this planet.
Also, casting has been as issue lately. As the Orphans get more and more popular, it makes sense that we should be searching out more and more talent. The fact that we haven’t done so is due partly to my laziness and partly to my sense of loyalty. Once someone is in the family, they stay there and I begin to write parts specifically for those people and only for those people. But as always with life, some of the Orphans have recently moved away, others have married and had babies, some have passed onto the great beyond and still others have simply given up the theater. Admittedly, I‘m the one who should be going out and seeing more plays in town as there are many actors in the Boston theater community that I have never seen, and they in turn have never seen an Orphans show. Hopefully, that will change in the coming months.
We will soon be making an independent film and you would think that I would have a stack of head shots a mile high. I don’t. But I should.
Why do you think The Boys in the Band was ripe for a revival? What do you think we can learn from the productions after all of these years? What has changed and what hasn’t changed?
I have recently become friends with the play’s author, Mart Crowley, and he sums it up better than I ever could: “It has never really fallen out of the public eye. It's been made into a film, been revived Off-Broadway every decade or so, produced around the country and the world, fallen out of favor and fallen into favor. But it has never stopped being talked about.”
I believe that there is much to learn from the play as it is a true human document. That is to say that its characters actually existed. Perhaps never physically, but each of the party-goers represents a type of person who can easily be found “within the ether.”
The only difference I see between the gays of yesteryear and the gays of today is that you had to be brave enough to confront, compliment, insult, and love people face-to-face in 1968. Today, we just do it through our cell phones.
Miscast! What roles would you love to play but because of reasons (age, gender, race, etc.), you might not traditionally be cast?
Thanks to having written over sixty plays musicals and adaptations I have been lucky enough to have played every role I have ever wanted to, from Joan of Arc to Joan Crawford. I’ve played men, women, unborn embryos, Gods, devils, politicians, bums, royalty, skanks, old ladies, teenage girls, yuppies, and drug addicts.
But if I had my way I suppose I would have liked to have been in the original cast of Bewitched.
Where are some of your favorite places to relax?
I don’t relax. But if I did I suppose I would have to say my front porch in New Orleans and my hammock in Provincetown.
Do you have a favorite piece of clothing or accessory? Why?
Yes. My red white and blue leather motorcycle jacket once worn by a trick motorcyclist in a traveling circus. I once gave it away to one of the Orphans who was going through some personal issues at the time, but once those were worked out, [the person] gave it back. I guess [the Orphan] knew how much it meant to me.
If you could change one thing from the past, what would it be and why?
I would have liked to have been there during the Annunciation.
What is a motto, lesson, or quote that you live by?
“To live only to dream and to die only to rest.”
Do you have any upcoming projects?
How much time do you have?
Yes, we will be doing Legally Blind-The Helen Keller Musical this spring 2016, and then right into Brown is the New Pink with Varla Jean Merman in Provincetown.
Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?
Yes, but let me rinse it off first.