2015 Best Supporting Actor in a Play Nominee: Ryan Landry as Harold in Zeitgeist Stage Company's "The Boys in the Band"

Before we announce our 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Winners, we are proud to present our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series. 

NOTE: If you were nominated for a 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series, please email us at brian@artsimpulse.com

Photo Credit: Michael von Redlich.

Photo Credit: Michael von Redlich.

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. 

Cowboy (Ryan Wingert) and Harold (Ryan Landry) cuddle on the couch as Michael (Victor Shopov) looks on in Zeitgeist Stage Company's  The Boys in the band  (Photo Credit: Richard Hall/Silverline images). 

Cowboy (Ryan Wingert) and Harold (Ryan Landry) cuddle on the couch as Michael (Victor Shopov) looks on in Zeitgeist Stage Company's The Boys in the band (Photo Credit: Richard Hall/Silverline images). 

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.

2015 Best Leading Actress in a Play Nominee: Aina Adler as Emilie in Zeitgeist Stage Company's "The Submission"

Before we announce our 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Winners, we are proud to present our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series. 

NOTE: If you were nominated for a 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in our Nominee Interview Series, please email us at brian@artsimpulse.com.

Aina tackled the incredibly challenging, conflicted, and nuanced role of Emilie in Zeitgeist Stage Company's The Submission.  Her strengths included not only her never-back-down attitude, but also the moments of vulnerability. She made the story her own, and we were enraptured in her performance and story, moment to moment.

In her Interview, Aina discusses the particularly challenging moments in The Submission, what she wishes for the Boston theatre community, and some of her goals for 2016. 

Photo Credit: Shaun Mader

Photo Credit: Shaun Mader

Thank you so much for interviewing with us, Aina.  Your performance in The Submission was superb.  Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

I am an actor, based in the Greater Boston area. I was born & raised in Germany. I got my degree in Acting from Emerson College & have been working in this city ever since.

What have been some of your favorite roles onstage?  Why?

I favor the antagonist characters. Way more fun. Way more interesting.

Talk to us about The Submission.  What made it such a wonderful play?  What drew you to the production?  What did you learn about the play, the role, and yourself through the rehearsal and performance process?

I think what was great about it is it feels really real. Many shows divorce comedy and drama, like it's one or the other. That's not real life. In real life: Often at the most inappropriate times ever, we find humor, and, usually the funniest jokes have something really real going on behind them. Jeff Talbott did a really good job with capturing that marriage.

Similarly, I just loved the role of Emilie so much. She was so complex. Unlike many black roles that are out there, she felt like a real person. Fleshed out. With a real voice.

You had a few intense scenes in The Submission.  You know the scene in particular, where you could hear a pin drop in the audience because of the emotional intensity.  Can you tell us about how your prepared and what changed for each performance?  What was going through your head each night?

I was terrified of those scenes, particularly that scene.

I'd been a bad actor and not read the entire play before going to the audition. I'd only read the first half, so I didn't know, at the time, how it ended. I just thought it was a super fun comedy. A friend did tell me that it takes a real turn & it all hit the fan at the end, so I knew some stuff would go down, but I was not prepared . . .  I remember the first time I actually finished reading the whole thing-- my heart was pounding. I just thought, “Oh my God . . . What did I get myself into?! What did I just agree to- I can't do this! I am not a good enough actor for this role. I do not have the courage to do this.”

Preparation was minimal . . . I think my first mode of dealing with that scene was just: Avoidance. We rehearsed the play sort of chronologically, and I mostly tried not to worry about that scene or the fact that it was coming. I just sort of hoped that we'd work up to it and by the time we really got to it, things would click & I'd just be in the zone. Which ended up being pretty much how it happened. Every single other scene in the play was preparation for that one. By the time we get to that point, there's a lot that's been bubbling up for her for the whole show.

Emilie (Aina Adler) and Danny (Victor Shopov) discuss the logistics for their plan. (Photo Credit: Richard Hall/Silverline Images)

Emilie (Aina Adler) and Danny (Victor Shopov) discuss the logistics for their plan. (Photo Credit: Richard Hall/Silverline Images)

My personal objective for Emilie in that ultimate silence was: Hold the tears in. He's done a lot to damage her dignity by that time, but Emilie's strong, so my personal impression of her was that she's not the sort of person who would give him the satisfaction of seeing her hurt. The thing that would go through my head during that silence was: “Do not give this man your tears!” As anyone who saw the show would know, I lost that game pretty quickly each night. (Early on in the run my lovely cast mates started mocking me – Diego [Buscaglia] (Pete) called me a “leaky faucet”).

So for me, what changed each night was what happened after that. That was the fun part. The more Victor [Shopov] (Danny) got me to dissolve into tears each night, the greater the urge to redeem her, regain the status, end strong and find different ways to punish him, really putting the knife in with that last line. That was the fun part- playing with it every night as we just pushed each other further and further.

What stories, or kinds of stories, do you want to see performed in Boston?  Why?

More stories like this one. This play was so current, so relevant & dealt with such important issues. Things we as a nation & a society are really struggling with right now. And that's cool. Art for art's sake is fine. But it's nice to feel like you're telling a story that's so important. So much of being an actor is just vanity. When you can be a part of something that's important and feels like it actually makes a difference and starts new conversations that need to be started, that's everything. It's so fulfilling. More of that, please.

What is your biggest challenge as a performer?  As a person?

Finding roles. I'm not referring to the mere quantity of roles available, I'm talking about roles that are a real opportunity to stretch and play and expand and challenge oneself. Not to sound too much like my character, but as a female performer of color, roles like this one that offer that level of opportunity are a rare gem that don't come along all the time.

What, or who, inspires you?

I love funny people. I think they're super talented.

If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Emilie (Aina Adler) wants to be an actress, but what does she want to do to get it? (Photo Credit: Richard Hall/Silverline Images)

Emilie (Aina Adler) wants to be an actress, but what does she want to do to get it? (Photo Credit: Richard Hall/Silverline Images)

Green salad! Just because that's not real life. In real life all I ever want to do is have meat and carbs and fats and sweets and booze - FOREVER! I can't get myself to eat greens to save my life. And it's a problem. If I did what I'd want to do & picked one delicious thing to eat forever, it'd be a disaster. BUT- if I'm forced to by some magic spell that's put on me & I could only eat one thing forever- duh, make it green salad. Dietary & self-control problems: SOLVED. Alas, t'would be a sad and empty life, with nothing but my smoking hot bod to bring me joy...

Do you have anything resolutions for 2016?  Goals?

I keep saying that I want to start doing film/TV. Let's have 2016 be the year where I actually do that.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

I am thrilled to be returning to Zeitgeist Stage Company, and reuniting with one of my Submission cast mates, Matt [Fagerberg] (Trevor), this season to do a comedy (for real this time!) I will be playing the role of Martha in Cakewalk.

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers? 

The Submission was a dream; I fell in love with our cast.  That is one that will live in my heart forever.  Thanks for the nomination, ArtsImpulse! It's an honor.