I am an interdisciplinary artist & educator. I devise performances informed by documentary materials, and I facilitate processes that engage diverse communities. My work as a maker and educator—ranging from large-scale public performances, to solo installations, to assets-oriented projects with communities and schools—explores deep questions of identity, place, and belonging: Who am I? Who are you? Where am I, and where are you? How do we share space with each other and learn to live and work together?
My upbringing led me to become an artist who values collaboration and communion and who feels innate curiosity about communities and histories. I was raised an American Catholic, one of five siblings. We appreciated ritual and spectacle, as well as playful group creation in our family basement. We were Army brats, and I came to realize that I was gay. I experienced a mobile rootlessness and a persistent sense of otherness. I moved to Nome, Alaska after undergraduate theatre training to become an itinerant radio journalist, then made my life as a theatre actor, director, and teaching artist. Over time, this range of experiences informed my artistic devising process: I engage in interviews, documentary research, and collaborative experimentation. I generate performance works and engagement programs interrogating what it means to belong to community. Some of my projects feature sweeping portraits of towns, cities, or regions; others, in which I literally interview myself, plumb intimate, personal stories. In all of these I employ a range of aesthetic forms—including puppetry, video design, and digital media—in a variety of established, experimental, and community spaces.
For thirteen years in Alaska, I have dedicated myself to a deep, “micro” experience of localized, sustained engagement with a number of communities. I can speak first-hand to such immersion: the power of mutual trust; the complex position of insider-outsider; and the benefits of conducting interviews, research, and performance in which one is encountered as a peer and a neighbor—not “just” as an artist.
I have also created projects as a visitor to a range of communities beyond Alaska, from Stonington, Maine, to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, to Abu Dhabi, UAE. These varied collaborations give me a broad, “macro” perspective on documentary and performance: the ethics of entering and exiting a community; the limits and pitfalls of the anthropological lens; and the complex dynamics of race, power and privilege, from my place as a guest facilitator in diverse settings.
From the “micro” to the “macro,” I wrestle with these powerfully human questions artistically: Who am I, and who are you…? As I create and collaborate, I commit to an ethical practice of being and making, rooted in deep listening.
Ryan Conarro is an interdisciplinary performance maker and a teaching artist. He’s a company member with Juneau’s Perseverance Theatre and a Resident Artist with the New York-based international company Theater Mitu. He’s a founding member of Generator Theater Company, and he performed on national tour and Off-Broadway at the New Victory with the Aquila Theatre. Ryan has also directed two operas with Juneau’s Opera to Go. Ryan is currently based in Brooklyn, New York, where he’s engaged in a residency with Ping Chong + Company through the Leadership One-on-One Fellowship, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by Theatre Communications Group.
As an educator, Ryan is a Ping Chong + Company teaching artist, leading devising workshops and PC+C’s Secret Histories education program at New York City schools including Flushing International High and the U.N. International School. Ryan serves as a Kennedy Center Partners in Education teaching artist and teacher trainer in Stonington, Maine; Juneau, Alaska; and Kodiak, Alaska. He’s a long-time artist on the Alaska State Council on the Arts Artists In Schools program roster, and he sits on the council’s Arts Education Advisory Committee. He was Drama Content Coach for the Alaska Department of Education’s State System of Support for three years, visiting intervention-status schools in rural Alaska to provide arts integration strategies to teachers. He spent seven years as a teaching artist with the Lower Kuskokwim School District arts integration program, where he served 13 village school sites by providing drama-based instruction to staff and students. And he was resident drama teaching artist for 4 years at Glacier Valley Elementary in Juneau. Ryan has facilitated arts workshops in communities and schools around the U.S., and in Mexico, Canada, India, Abu Dhabi, Lebanon, and the U.K.
Ryan is an adjunct professor at the New School for Drama. He has taught drama integration as an adjunct professor in the University of Alaska Southeast bachelor’s and master’s of education programs; as a teacher leader with the Alaska Arts Education Consortium; and in a variety of education conferences and workshops. He’s presented work at NYU’s Applied Theatre Forum.
Ryan first came to Alaska in 2001 as an AmeriCorps volunteer for KNOM Radio in Nome, where he worked as morning show host and traveled in the Bering Strait region as Public Affairs Director. In Juneau, he designed and implemented the KTOO-JDHS Broadcast Journalism Program, a project teaching radio news production skills to Juneau high school students, and mentoring them as they created stories for air region-wide on KTOO’s Morning Edition.
Ryan’s theatre training began at the Gainesville Theatre Alliance in northeast Georgia. He earned a BFA in theatre and English at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts at Goddard College, where his creative work focused on documentary performance practice and arts education. His other training and education includes courses in NYU’s Educational Theatre master’s program; the O’Neill Puppetry Conference and the Juniper Tree School for Puppetry Arts; the SITI Company’s summer intensive at Skidmore College; Theater Mitu’s South India Artist Intensive; and the semester Shakespeare Intensive at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. He’s a student of Gurukkal Sivakumar in the Indian traditional martial art form kalaripayattu.
Ryan and his four siblings grew up as Army brats living in various parts of the U.S. When he’s not in a school or at the theater, Ryan likes to hike, kayak, attempt to downhill ski, and drink a second cup of coffee.