Spotlight On: Ryan Colwell 

Christopher Borg 

This past July, we were shocked at the loss of a beloved member of our Community, when Ryan Matthew Colwell, 32, of Brooklyn, passed away in his sleep from unknown causes just a few days after his birthday.

Ryan had worked extensively throughout Chicago and here in New York. In 2005 he collaborated with peers to form The Narcissists under which he has performed the solo shows Remembering the Future and Johnny Bad vs. Jackie True: A ruffian poet and his muse, and directed the ensemble monologue show C. Commute.

Since 2007 Ryan had worked with Toy Box Theatre Company as co-artistic director and production manager but continued to act, appearing as Poggio in their production of Tis Pity She's a Whore (2010 Nominee for Outstanding Original Music), The Stud in Woyzeck, and Lance, the villain in The Short Fall.   

It is always tragic when we lose someone so early in their life. His sudden passing is reminiscent of another shocking loss in our community in 2011, when the passing of the beloved Aaron Baker devastated the family at Williamsburg's The Brick Theatre.

Ryan was born "three days after the firecracks" in 1980 in Rockville, Connecticut, then moved to Kansas in 1988. He graduated from Blue Valley North High School in 1998 and from the University of Kansas in 2002 with a B.A. in Theater & Film. He moved to Chicago then to New York City to pursue a career in acting but his passion and gifts in the theatre led him to write, direct and produce as well.

I talked with Jonathan Barsness who was Ryan's Co-Artistic Director at Toy Box Theatre Company about his memories and thoughts of Ryan.

CB: What was Ryan like to work with?

JB:  He was absolutely fantastic as a producer. He was extremely organized and level-headed. He was the budget master and the keeper of the calendar, and he always managed to stay objective and never got carried away by the stress of production. He was "that" guy. He was a good actor, but he really enjoyed being in charge of the production being a producer and production manager.

CB: What was he like personally?

JB:  He was very patient. He didn't have any enemies and could get along with everyone who met him - egotistical or difficult actors or designers, small budgets lots of stresses, he was always calm and extraordinarily diplomatic, he always managed to keep things calm.

CB: I'm sure it his been difficult without him, what kind of impact has his passing had on Toy Box?

JB:  Absolutely devastating. We don't make a lot of money operating Toy Box Theatre....we were good friends who enjoyed working together...its been six months and we are getting back on our feet and figuring out how to move forward; both on a practical level - Ryan was the organizer- and also the emotional level...but this is a strong group of friends.

Ryan's obituary said "Ryan loved his life, his family and his many friends. He valued truth and sincerity and was gracious, genuine and funny. He was a true gentleman, a role model and an inspiration."

He is missed.

At this time of year it is nice to reflect on all we have, on our family, friends and chosen-families on Off-Off-Broadway and beyond. Take a moment to thank them for their hard work and let them know how valuable they are.

Love, Peace and Joy to you all.


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