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tim ryan

Some sad news out of Edmonton today. This is reposted from Liz Nicholls at the Edmonton Journal
“Edmonton theatre, and by extension the theatre community across the country, has lost one of its most magnetic and inspirational artists, teachers, mentors, agents provocateur.
With the death Thursday night of Tim Ryan, felled at 62 by congestive heart failure complicated by the H1N1 virus, Grant MacEwan University’s influential theatre arts department is now without its leader and visionary founding father.
Daughter Kate Ryan said her father had a heart condition and had been ailing since spring. He entered the heart institute at the University of Alberta Hospital a week ago and was tested for the H1N1 virus, which was later confirmed.
The Ryans are a fabled Edmonton theatre family in the grand tradition: Both daughters, Kate and Bridget, are actors, directors and playwrights, as is his ex-wife Maralyn, and his wife Laurie Fumagalli, a pianist/musical director and lawyer.
They are mourning the loss of a man who combined the love of art and the love of family in a way that has resonated in theatres here and across the continent.
Tim–both “Professor Ryan” and indeed “Mr. Ryan” are jarringly wrong for his puckish, casual style –emigrated to Canada in 1979, a precocious young American director from Cleveland armed with a startling resume of credits in opera and theatre, to start a new program at Grant MacEwan. The way Tim has told the story, a potential musical in itself, he arrived after midnight, got put up at the Saxony, and by 9 a.m. the next day, the then-college had a theatre program that specialized in musicals, to distinguish it from the University of Alberta drama department.
With him on this extended, 30-year foreign excursion was his then-wife Maralyn, with whom Tim had run the prestigious Willoughby School of Fine Arts in Cleveland, modelled after Alberta’s Banff Centre, for seven years. “That was a legacy, too,” she says of Tim’s artistic directorship there.
That first Canadian summer Tim put together not one, but two, big musicals: Pal Joey and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. It was a tip-off: Edmonton had acquired the services, the rarefied knowledge, and the unflagging energy and invention, of a true musical theatre expert.
Passion to share
The bonus, for 30 years of Grant Mac students, is that Tim was the rarest kind of expert, one who was “passionate to share everything he knew,” as Farren Timoteo puts it. Director and lyricist of the new Teatro La Quindicina musical Everybody Goes To Mitzi’s and artistic director of Alberta Opera Theatre, Timoteo says meeting Tim was “a life-changing experience,” a sentiment echoed by other Grant Mac grads. “My life would not be the same if I hadn’t met him,” says Timoteo. “The word is ‘inspiring.’ He was a man of massive passion, devotion and excitement, as well as an accomplished landmark director.”
That was his endearing charm. Not only did he know his stuff, in a way that never ceased to dazzle, he was an enthusiast, an appreciator. Talent made him hopeful, happy. Tim would call me up: “Liz, you’ve gotta see this kid! He’s amazing! This kid cracks me up!” Musical theatre made him joyful. “There was no bigger fan,” says Timoteo, one of the kids who cracked Tim up. “No show was ever just a job with him. He was in love with it, and that showed in his direction …What I learned was that the best things would happen when you played. He’d be so full of giddy excitement.”
The same thought occurs to Chris Wynters. The presiding muse of the folk/roots band Captain Tractor is a Grant Mac musical theatre grad who has gone on to write musicals of his own, including Red Lips with Tim, and a musical version of The Winter’s Tale with Tim’s daughter, Bridget. “The first thing is the energy of the man, to inspire. I’m just one of many people who feel like that,” says Wynters, currently recording a CD. “Not a day goes by, in any of the things I do, that I haven’t heard his voice in my head.
“I’m so lucky I got to work with him. Such a depth of knowledge. And so fun.”
Juilliard tickets
Kate Ryan talks about the way her father “never stopped believing in us,” the family actors. “If I took a role, he’d always say, ‘I know you can do it!'” The gift Tim gave to many people, she says, was “never to be afraid … When I decided in high school I wanted to go to New York, to Juilliard, he bought the ticket … His life was the arts and he never separated that from family.”
And as for audiences, Tim gave us musicals we’d never heard of, musicals we couldn’t have hoped to see anywhere else, hip new ones, vintage ones, musicals that had flopped on Broadway because they’d been overproduced. In the summer, the academic off-season, he took his student casts to Fringe stages. In his non-existent spare time, he founded Leave It To Jane, a company that specialized in pocket, off-Broadway musicals and straight plays. He did his research where it counts, in person in the theatre. As Maralyn Ryan points out, in the year Tim spent doing an MA at the University of London– his thesis? the application of Oriental dance and movement to theatre– he saw 300 shows.
“This is a man who affected so many people,” says Maralyn Ryan. “He was a storyteller, both in person and on the stage.”
His own story, after months of declining health and six days in hospital, ended far too abruptly.
lnicholls@thejournal. canwest. co
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal”

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