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BWW Feature: At Home With Joan Ryan

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The petite lady with the big voice is campaigning for a better world.

BWW Feature: At Home With Joan RyanJoan Ryan has been very busy on her Facebook page lately. A glance at the social media of the beltress shows a flurry of activity, usually some kind of activism (whether it is donations to crowdfunding campaigns, charities and political organizations), politics, or bold statements of optimism and hope. So when I had the chance to chat with the bi-coastal singing actress, I wasn't about to let the chance slip by to talk about politics via social media, the state of the world and strong women, including her best friends and her daughters.

This interview was conducted digitally and is reproduced in its entirety.

Joan Ryan, welcome back to Broadway World Cabaret - it's been a while since we chatted: how are things in sunny California?

Hi Stephen! I'm so happy to hear from you!

How is it going out there in California?

Well, all in all pretty well... but it is definitely a different Los Angeles than the one I left two years ago. Not long after I got back, there was an earthquake. Now there are raging fires and a pandemic that doesn't seem to be letting up anytime soon. And unfortunately, It feels like there is truly no end in sight for either one.

So, how did it feel, making your Green Room 42 debut as a New York City-based member of the community, and to a packed house, I might add?

The night at Green Room 42 was really exciting. I was planning on doing it again soon after, but the pandemic got in the way.

BWW Feature: At Home With Joan RyanWhen I was still living in Los Angeles, I did a show at 54 Below and then flew home the very next day. I had a great time and I loved the whole experience. I did my very first show at Birdland as a NY based performer and not long after, The Green Room 42. And you know, it really did feel different. From the minute I got here, I loved going to other people's shows, readings, showcases and I would guest in my friend's shows whenever they asked. So when it came time to do my own show, so many of my wonderful friends came. The New York theater and cabaret community have been so warm and so welcoming. So the answer is, I loved it. And I can't wait to do it again.

BWW Feature: At Home With Joan Ryan

Just before the country went into lockdown, with Manhattan going first, you were happily living as a new New Yorker who had just done a successful nightclub act at The Green Room 42, then, suddenly, you were back in your old life on the West Coast. Did you suffer from New York-us Interruptus?

To put it mildly! I was having the most exciting time in New York and couldn't believe how lucky I was to be able to move, all with the support of my family and friends back in Los Angeles. In a relatively short amount of time, I found my rhythm, my amazing tribe of friends, a fantastic manager and agents, auditions and even work. But then, in what felt like a moment, New York was shutting down. So, in less than three days after my show at The Green Room 42, I was frantically packing to get to Los Angeles so I could quarantine with my family. I had no idea when I would be back, so I grabbed what I thought I would need for a few weeks! Little did I know it would be this long. So, do I miss New York? More than you know. There is so much about New York I friends, the theater, cabaret, late night dinners and walking out of our apartment smack into Lincoln Center. A sight that never failed to take my breath away. I'm afraid I might be sounding naive, and especially now, but I have loved New York City all my life and the feeling of gratitude that I lived there never got old...I can't wait until we can come back.

I think your children are California based, so have you at least had the comfort of their company while putting your new life on hold?

I'm so grateful I made it back in the nick of time. Being with my daughters and my husband during this time has been such a gift. I had been going back and forth between LA and NY every few weeks to see them, so being able to be with them has been truly wonderful. I also have a 93 1/2 year old mom in lockdown, and it's been pretty devastating not to be able to be in the same room with her. I go sing to her outside her window ( I'm sure seeing me climb into the planter outside her window and belting out show tunes is a sight to see) but that brings me great comfort, as well.

BWW Feature: At Home With Joan Ryan

You're a solution-oriented person, always with a project upon which to work. What work solace did you find while under quarantine?

I very quickly learned that my cooking and organizing skills would get no better so I let that go. I knew I would have a hard time sitting still, so I took on some other projects. I also knew I would need the ability to record from home, so I set up an at home studio and have learned how to use it. Also, about three years ago, Ilene Graff brought together 11 friends to discuss our love of singing and performing. We started having once a month lunches but they very quickly turned into much more than that. These women are extraordinary and the combined resumes are breathtaking. We are doing a benefit concert for the Actors Fund on October 3rd that will live stream on the Actors Fund YouTube channel. And soon after that, I'll be doing my own solo livestream solo concert.

BWW Feature: At Home With Joan Ryan

Speaking of being solution-oriented, you are very outspoken and open about the needs and the ways to make change in today's world. I've noticed your social media has taken a decidedly political turn lately. I'd love to hear about your passion for change.

When I was younger, I was not very political. In fact, it was always upsetting to watch the news or read anything negative in the paper because I was easily upset, so I just looked the other way.

But little by little, I realized that it was my responsibility to be involved...for my family and for my community. I started reading and getting involved and it all came to a head during this current administration. I realized that I can no longer be quiet.

Our social media pages can be a breeding ground for disagreements and arguments - do you worry at all from that possibility when becoming political online?

I am always shocked when I post something and people that disagree respond with anger and vitriol. I don't interact, I just quickly delete..but it takes me a minute..I breathe, read it and delete it! I just don't feel that interacting negatively with people on social media changes anything. That's why I got involved with Airlift so that I could do a little more than feeling like I was just posting my opinion.. the time for posting is over.. now it's time to truly act! I have friends that say that they won't get political on their pages and their feeds. I can't help it. I feel like we were all given a voice, and it's how I've brought up my daughters.. find your voice and use it!

You are known to lend a helping hand when you can, in the ways that you can. You give to many charities and crowdfunding pages for things like the ASPCA, Shane's Inspiration, The Actor's Fund, Smile Train, you send food to a local ICU, you've made Facebook posts about the She Angels Foundation and used your page to inform people about the SAG/AFTRA Health Plan changes - have you always been an activist, and how did your activism begin?

BWW Feature: At Home With Joan RyanIt's so funny, I don't think of myself as an activist but I take that as such a compliment. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be able to be involved. I truly feel we all have a responsibility to help where we can, to keep informed and to speak up. Thank you for mentioning She Angels. I am very excited to be a founding member and on the advisory board of this amazing non profit. She Angels is an organization of Women Helping Women. We raise money to give grants to women owned businesses that help women in need.

As we head into the final months leading up to the election, how are you advising people to participate and contribute to the quest to make change for the better?

The most important thing is that now is the time to act...if you can donate, donate, if you can be a poll worker, do that.. write letters, help get people to the polls. This is truly the fight of a lifetime.. because what happens on November 3rd will affect all of us for the rest of our lives.

Joan, thanks for chatting with us today, and I'll be sure to think of you when I cast my vote!

Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity. I miss New York so much and it makes me keep that connection so close to my heart.

Photos provided by Joan Ryan

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From This Author Stephen Mosher