Photo provided by Ryan Kasprzak
As one of Marymount Manhattan College’s graduates, Ryan ’03 is back on campus as guest choreographer for the Theater Production Workshops musical, Triumph of Love, opening on March 6th and ending on March 10th.
“The first few days back at the college were surreal. Being in the building where I was a student brought back a flood of great memories. As a student performer, I was the one being judged and now I have the chance to help so many talented kids hone their skills,” Ryan enthuses.
Though he enjoys being a performer, his passion lies in the process of creating the choreography. Ryan shares, “It’s more fulfilling and artistic for me and it’s the best way to tell the story.” While tap dance is his specialty, he uses classic Broadway /MGM Musical styles and is inspired by jazz and a Fosse–esque approach.
While impressed that he has worked with song and dance legends like Gwen Verdon, Ben Vereen, Gregory Hines and Jennifer Hudson, his Triumph of Love students are much more interested and curious to ask Ryan about their shared experiences and what things were like when he was a Marymount Manhattan student.
Collaborating with Ryan with his former professor and Triumph of Love director, Kevin Connell is a tremendous experience: “Appreciating Kevin’s skill from a different perspective was a joy.”
Originally hailing from the suburbs of Detroit, Ryan became a huge fan of New York City early on as a result of family visits to see Broadway musicals and plays. When it came time to select college possibilities, he looked at every NYC college that offered a curriculum for theater and performing arts. During the audition phase, he also opted to observe classes on the various campuses he visited in Manhattan.
He was most impressed with Marymount Manhattan College because of the intimate experiences and exchanges between students and their professors. “It was amazing to see how well they knew each other and that there was such individualized attention. At Marymount Manhattan, I could basically create my own program combining my passions in dance, theater and writing.”
Ryan’s other successes include his appearance on Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance and serving as dance captain for the first national tour of Billy Elliot. Now residing in Astoria, Ryan is matter-of-fact about the huge advantage to spending his college years at Marymount Manhattan. “When a young actor comes to the Big Apple, there’s a tremendous adjustment getting used to this town. I already had that advantage since New York City was my campus for four years!”
Ryan continues to create new work with his multi Drama Desk Award-nominated company Parallel Exit: Physical Comedy Theater. Its production of This Way, That Way prompted the NY Times to say Ryan, “can get laughs simply by breathing.” Ryan credits his mentor and late Marymount Manhattan College Professor, Bill Bordeau, for introducing him to the world of physical humor. “He encouraged me to take a clowning technique class; it opened up a flood-gate of new opportunity.”
Ryan concludes, “Being back at Marymount Manhattan for the purpose of choreographing the Vaudevillian clown section in Triumph of Love, is a wonderful, full-circle…I’m back at the place where my physical humor exposure began.”