Ryan Lucas leads with a smile when you meet him, the kind of smile you see in a toothpaste commercial. At 19, he seems more mature than a lot of teens his age, but then, he will turn 20 in August. Last March, he applied to be an unpaid intern at La Jolla Playhouse and was interviewed on a conference call by his current supervisors: Dana Harrel, a producing director, and Teresa Sapien, an artistic assistant.
“It was one of the best conversations I’ve had with theater professionals,” he said. “They are so nice. They let me know I had already demonstrated my abilities in my application. They wanted to know about my personal goals in theater.”
Ryan brought recommendations from two previous internship bosses at the Chicago Black Ensemble and City Lit, where Ryan was an assistant director, house manager and special events coordinator last summer.
The “drama bug” bit Ryan in elementary school around third grade. He attended New Trier High School, where three of his four drama teachers were Northwestern graduates, a university that turns out lots of theatrical talent. At New Trier, eight or nine productions are performed each year, and students can take four years of drama and dance classes. Very few American high schools have these great resources.
“I was in everything,” he said. “I sang, acted, danced. By senior year, I chose to go to the University of Miami on a full ride in performing arts. However, I really didn’t feel at home there and opted to revisit my other choices: USC and Michigan.”
Ann Arbor thrives in musical theater, according to Ryan, and in January 2012, Ryan became a Wolverine.
Ryan said he loves going to work at La Jolla Playhouse as an intern. He shows up five days a week for eight hours a day. He arrived on the scene May 6 and will leave on Aug. 23.
“I’m treated well here. I have stakes in the tasks I’m given; it’s not busy work,” he said. “I’m here to observe and absorb, and staff shares their wisdom. I like everyone at the Playhouse.”
One of his responsibilities is casting related.
“I prescreen the data base for actors wanting to audition,” he said. “I also schedule auditions and coordinate them to be efficient.”
Although his internship is unpaid, some special perks come with the job. Complimentary tickets to plays are one — and not just at the Playhouse. The Old Globe and Coronado Lambs have made free tickets available. Ryan also sat in with an interview of Ayad Akhtar, a Pakistani-American playwright born in New York and raised in Milwaukee. Akhtar won the 2013 Pulitzer for his debut play, “Disgraced.” His play “The Who and the What” should be produced in 2014 at La Jolla Playhouse.
University City is home to Ryan this summer. He is staying with Phil and Barbara Henshaw, two Michigan transfers. He met them for the first time when he got off the plane at Lindbergh Field. In a six-degrees-of-separation-theme, Ryan’s mom had a friend in Chicago who had a friend in University City, who had a friend, Barbara Henshaw. The Henshaws have enjoyed having Ryan around this summer, although they admit to seeing him always on the go. They have two grown sons and like having “this son” in their home. He shares an occasional dinner with them and conversations about life in the theater.
Remember the name Ryan Lucas. His star is rising. Rather than pursue acting or music, his long-term goal is to produce plays. When he returns to school at Michigan this fall, he will be producing college shows and looking to spring semester to go to London. He also wants to intern in NYC next summer after his junior year.
“I need to go to New York for that experience,” he said. When asked where he thought he’d be in 10 years, he paused for a moment and then flashed that smile. “I’d like to be in a mid-level position in regional theater or doing associate producing.”
Let’s hope a reunion with La Jolla Playhouse will be part of that equation with this articulate, talented teen ready to turn 20 and take on the world after this lucky summer of 2013 in La Jolla and U.C.