Lessons learned in radio prepare for career on Broadway
When Ryan Silverman (Radio and Television ’00) began his studies at NAIT, he pictured himself behind a radio microphone, not performing on Broadway.
“I never thought in a million years that I would be in New York,” says the actor, who has performed in Broadway shows such as Chicago, Side Show and The Phantom of the Opera.
Some career paths are less direct than others, but Silverman’s journey resembles a ping-pong match, going back and forth between radio and acting. The Sherwood Park native just marked his 14th year living in the Big Apple, home to the world’s biggest theatre productions. But it was actually Silverman’s interest in radio and a helpful push from NAIT instructors that sent him down the road to Broadway.
Act I: An unexpected detour
When Silverman first applied to the Radio and Television program, he didn’t get in, but was told performing experience would help if he wanted to re-apply. He decided to study theatre at another post-secondary in Edmonton and found he enjoyed the experience of being on stage, where there’s a thrill with each role.
“Every day is different,” he says. “It’s fun. They’re great gigs and I like getting to create.”
After completing his theatre program, Silverman still had a desire to get into radio, a career that had always piqued his interest. Getting into NAIT on his second try not only gave him hands-on experience in radio, it set up his future success on stage. The skills he learned, including writing, translate across both fields.
“You had to think on your feet and you had to improvise as you were going,” he says. “You had to communicate and be interesting and energetic, and all of that applies to acting and auditioning. I still use those skills today.”
Act II: Curtain calling
Even though Silverman pursued broadcasting, his love of theatre kept pulling him back to the stage. He appeared in his first show, The Buddy Holly Story at Edmonton’s Mayfield Dinner Theatre, as he was finishing his studies at NAIT. Once that run was over, he landed a role in a production that took him on the road, eventually landing in Vancouver.
“I was scared of failing. Once I decided I was going to commit, failing didn’t matter as much.”
Silverman’s success in theatre came at the expense of his ambition for radio. He didn’t actually work in broadcast because he kept getting acting jobs. But initially, he wasn’t sure if he was making the right choices for his career.
“It took me awhile to really commit,” he says. “I was scared of failing. Once I decided I was going to commit, failing didn’t matter as much because I was just going to continue to try. That was a big lesson.”
Act III: Travelling productions
Since then, Silverman has been grinding. He’s sung at Royal Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall, with the Seattle Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra and others, along with a performance at the Tony Awards. Acting, especially early in his acting career, meant he was touring almost constantly. Taking a Broadway show on the road provides opportunities to change and improve parts of a show audiences might not be responding to, he says.
Now if Silverman needs to travel for a performance, he sticks to weekend performances off-Broadway that allow him to remain close to home and his wife and six-year-old daughter.
“These [shows] are great because you leave on a Friday and you're back Sunday or Monday morning,” he says.
Act IV: New beginnings
With past roles in major productions such as Camelot and West Side Story, Silverman says he’d like to perform on Broadway again, but he also would also like to dust off his writing skills and create a role for himself as a playwright. As an actor, you’re often performing in a role that someone else has done before, he says. During his last few shows, he helped shape his roles and contributed ideas – a process he enjoyed.
Whether in front of an audience or working on a script , Silverman is just delighted being part of the theatre scene and having enjoyed some success. Getting work as an actor through auditions can be nerve-wracking, he says. Once one role is over, the cycle starts over again, so he’s happy to have been in the business as long as he has.
“I’m really happy,” he says. “The unknown of it all used to be very difficult, but I've gotten used to that and now I quite like it.”