Ryan Cairel, who plays Death in The Song of the Nightingale, started performing at color guard competitions in middle and high school. In the summer of 2005, he was a member of the Concord Blue Devils Drum & Bugle Corps. I first met Ryan while music directing Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre’s production of Cinderella, and I’m so fortunate to have him as a cast member for The Song of the Nightingale. Below, Ryan shares a bit of his performance background, and also tells us about an event that is very near to his heart: Roanne’s Race – a 5k/10k run/walk set up in memory of his sister Roanne Cairel.
MIN: So, what have you been up to performance-wise between Cinderella and The Song of the Nightingale?
RYAN: I participated in my friend's dance thesis and performed in her modern dance at Mills College early this year. I danced and choreographed for the Las Positas Dance Production for several years in different genres such as lyrical, modern, jazz, hip hop, contemporary, swing, and waltz. My favorites are contemporary and lyrical. I auditioned for So You Think You Can Dance in 2010 or 2011, and made it to callbacks. I was cut after that, but it was still an awesome experience. My only TV time was in the background of the news and running into the theater!
M: What has the experience of being in Song of the Nightingale been like for you?
R: Being part of the Nightingale cast has been a huge learning experience. I didn't think I could sing until this show (thanks to you, Min). It's been fun acting as well. I'm not used to saying lines because, as a dancer, I act without saying a word, but I'm getting comfortable with it. Playing Death is, actually, really fun for me. This role has me playing the complete opposite of who I am, but I love the feeling I get when in character. The whole cast and crew is great to be around. Since day one, everyone has been so nice, welcoming, and helpful. They are all so talented and hilarious! So much laughter, inside jokes, and good times.
M: How did you get into performing/dancing?
R: I got into performing after watching Roanne, my older sister by 11 months, on our middle school color guard team. I would stay during their rehearsals and, sometimes, watch her practice at home. She would teach me tricks on rifle and flag in our front yard. The next school year, she suggested I audition for the team with her. I was a little hesitant at first, but she convinced me to try out. After making the team, I had a blast at rehearsals and competitions and that's when I knew I wanted to be a performer. I joined the color guard team every year and did it all through high school. After high school, color guard performances were over for me. Roanne was taking dance classes at Las Positas College, so I followed her route and enrolled into the dance production class that has dance concerts at the end of every semester. I danced alongside my sister my first semester. She was diagnosed with colon cancer the next semester and didn't dance. I didn't want to do the production without her, so I took more technique classes, like ballet and jazz, to better my dancing. Roanne enrolled back into the production class the next semester because she missed dancing and performing on stage. I joined again because she did. We were in the class together for a few more semesters. She even danced in some of the dances I choreographed; it was pretty awesome. Dealing with cancer and chemo treatments, Roanne had to stop taking the class. I didn't follow her and stop dancing. Instead, I kept going because I loved it and because I knew she would want me to. She would stop by and learn some of the movement, even when her chemo tube was hanging out of her shirt. Everyone loved it when she stopped by because you can just see how badly she wanted to keep dancing. She came to all of my performances. I feel like she lived her "dance life" vicariously through me when she couldn't dance anymore. I guess that's what keeps me going.
M: Tell us a little bit about Roanne's Race and what it has meant to you.
R: Roanne's Race is a 5k/10k run/walk. Roanne came up with the idea to help support colon cancer research. After her passing, our best friends (yes, we share best friends), her boyfriend, and our families decided to start the race in her honor. All of the proceeds are donated to support the research of colon cancer, specifically among young people. Last year for our inaugural race we supported Colon Cancer Alliance’s Diagnosed Under-50 Research Initiative and donated $8,500 to their research. This year we will be repeating our support of the Colon Cancer Alliance and their research. This race means everything to me. My sister didn't want to be forgotten and have her life just end. With this race, she's being introduced to so many people. We set up booths at festivals, hold fundraisers, and do whatever we can to spread the word and, every time, there's an indescribable feeling I get after seeing how many people are interested in our event. It's amazing how much support we've been getting!
Roanne’s Race 2013 is happening this weekend, Nov 2nd. Click the link for more information. It's too late to register in advance, but there will be a few spots available on a first-come-first-serve basis on the day of the run. And if you can’t make it to the event, you can still donate to this lovely cause at the Roanne’s Race website!