Tuesday, March 8, 2022

More on Mitchell Ryan

When I wrote the obituary for Mitch Ryan, I also had a show opening that night. It was tough to write for a lot of reasons, but I found myself corresponding tonight about him and the loss, and I think it might be worth sharing.

The piece was a bear because he was a virile guy, and although he slipped into old age with exactly the kind of crusty dignity that you would imagine, it was one of those things where it was not unexpected.  Kind of like Jonathan Frid. When someone went too soon, like Chris Pennock, or they roiled away in a miasma of personal conflict, like John Karlen, the words come really easily. Mitch Ryan was different.  

I have a lot of regret about not meeting him him. We got along extremely well when we chatted. Kathryn Leigh Scott was really happy with the interview I did. Every word I wrote about his warmth and enthusiasm was genuine. The fact that we could reminisce about Louisville was a huge bonus.  I grew up in the very last years where vast swaths of Louisville institutions somehow had carried on from his childhood. I don’t know exactly where his house was down to the mailbox, but I could take you within a few blocks. And it was pretty much a house like mine.  He went to the same high school as my mom, and I had to dance delicately around the fact that it was about a decade after he graduated.  (He was eight years older than she was.) 

I mean he was just a sweetheart.  I was going to bring a book on his neighborhood (and my neighborhood) to the Dark Shadows convention in 2016. When he couldn’t make it, I vowed that I would send it to him. I never got around to it. I’m sure he forgot about the whole thing seconds after I made the offer, but it’s one of those weird human moments that just kind of hangs on my conscience.

Now, now that the play  is over, I actually have the time to sort of sit back and properly  mourn.  I honestly think he is what made the show what it was at its very core. I think he  provided the essential first mystery and sense of masculine ambiguity that propelled the series. It was the baton that Frid picked up.  

And it’s a marvelously happy life.  It’s a life where he took the kind of problem that normally dashes people forever and he simply overcame it.  Well, I’m sure there was nothing simple about it. But he overcame it. I regret that he didn’t get the role of Captain Picard. By the time Patrick Stewart took the part, he had already had a wealth of brilliant opportunities to explore acting.  And although Ryan did some great stage work, it was maybe not the same as working year in and year out with John Barton at the RSC.  That show would have been a jaw dropping vehicle for him to show and discover what he was put on this earth to do.  

But despite that, he was just the very best kind of credit to his profession, to the show, and to what we all can be.

Patrick McCray

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