Ryan Brodsky plays the role of Leaf Coneybear in Moorpark College’s production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” A graduate of Thousand Oaks High School, Ryan recently completed his second year as a theater arts student at Moorpark College. In the fall he will be transferring to UC Irvine as a drama major. He has a long list of stage credits already, including “King Henry IV” (Moorpark College), “The King and I” (YAE), “Urinetown” (YA4Ever), “Cabaret” (YAE), “Chicago” (Moorpark College), “Oklahoma! (YAE), and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” (Rubicon). His next show will be “The Rocky Horror Show ” with YA4ever. His professional goal after finishing school is to have steady work as an actor on stage and screen.
VCOS: Did you audition specifically for Leaf Coneybear or just for the show?
RYAN: I went really wanting to play Leaf, but I tried not to just focus on one character because that might not have been who the director saw me as, so I made sure to be prepared if I was called back for any of the characters.
VCOS: What did you feel you could add to Leaf’s character that might have been a little different?
RYAN: I like Leaf just the way he is. As strange as he seems, he feels like a real person to me, so I feel everything is there.
VCOS: Some see these kids as a little crazy, especially Leaf and Barfee. What’s your opinion?
RYAN: I wouldn’t call any of the characters in the show crazy. They are just kids who are still figuring out what’s appropriate to say and do. Both of these characters have no filter, they just say and do what’s on their mind. They may look a little crazy to the audience but they are just really thinking and doing what we all wish we would get away with, because every person is crazy in their own way. The spellers just show you it.
VCOS: How do the spellers play off each other?
RYAN: Throughout our rehearsal process we’ve all discovered how our character feels about the other ones. For example, Leaf really likes Logainne and Olive because they give him a chance and actually talk to him, but when Leaf tries to talk to Chip, Marcy, or Barfee, they pretty much ignore him because they are not at the Bee to make friends. They feel they are too good to give Leaf the time of day, while Leaf just wants to make friends with them.
VCOS: Has anything happened during the show where you just “went with it” and found something great to go on?
RYAN: Yes, quite a few times. I love it when stuff like this happens, because we really get to do some major improv to get things back to the way they are supposed to be. A few nights ago one of our guest spellers took the microphone out of the stand and put it back in wrong, so later on in the show, it fell out and rolled off the stage. It was right before a song, too, so the actress playing Rona said, “Would someone please pick that up for me?” I ran over and got it to put it back but Leaf had some fun singing the song into the microphone like a rock star. Another time, our final guest speller spelled “xerophthalmiology” correctly. That is supposed to be a word that gets a person out for sure, so we just kept throwing words at her and she kept getting them right. To make sure we got her out, Vice Principal Panch had her spell “there” but the sentence he used was “They’re building their house over there.” That finally got rid of her.
VCOS: Have you done much in the way of improv?
RYAN: I was in improv club in high school for two years, but I haven’t really done anything since, although I would like to get better at it.
VCOS: Tell me about some of the more memorable “guest spellers” from the audience that have appeared on the show?
RYAN: Our course, there was the one I talked about before, but we also had a woman who decided she wanted to sing along with all the songs really loudly, even though she’d never heard any of them before. Then there was a guy who refused to spell the words and it took us ten minutes to get him to at least try. He ended up spelling “cat,” for some reason (Leaf liked that one). Another time, a woman wouldn’t stand where she was supposed to stand and kept running off the stage during “Pandemonium.” Whenever her name was called, she climbed over the bleachers like Leaf does. She also kept calling the cast members by their first names. I think she had had a few drinks before she came up. She’s not been invited back. But the WORST thing is when people come up and try to ham it up by putting on a character. It really makes us angry and messes up the pace of the show and any of the jokes that are written about the audience spellers. We encourage the volunteers to be themselves and not put on a character, but sometimes they just don’t listen.
VCOS: Do you like comedic or dramatic roles better? Which is more challenging to you?
RYAN: I love playing comedic roles. It’s because I find them so challenging. Most comedy comes from pain anyway, so I find there is a really fine line between the two.
VCOS: Do you have a dream role that you’d like to perform some day?
RYAN: It’s a tie between Og in “Finian’s Rainbow” and Max in “The Producers,” but if I’d had to pick just one it would be Ado Annie In “Oklahoma!”
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” plays through August 11 at Moorpark College’s Black Box Theater. See our Calendar of Events for show dates and times.