by Lou Mancinelli
Ever since he was a boy, local resident Ryan Tygh, actor, Hollywood stuntman in major films like “A Beautiful Mind” and a “double” for bold-face names like Mark Wahlberg, had a thing for performing. Anywhere there was an audience, he found a way to entertain. You could say he grew up putting on a show.
Whether it was singing Michael Jackson on his family’s dining room table, starring in grade school plays at the Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Roxborough or hanging with his father, a concert producer, who often brought his son to hang with the original members of the Temptations, Tygh could not get enough.
Through the years, Tygh, now 30, who has lived in Roxborough for the last 23 years, has performed with amateur and professional groups in productions across the region. There’s the St. Andrew’s Drexel Hill Players and the Play and Players at the Media Theater. He’s played the cool rebel Danny Zuko in “Grease” and Tony in “West Side Story” and has appeared on television shows like “Law and Order” and “Cold Case.”
He’s had roles (often unlisted in the final movie credits) in over 20 films, including “The Wrestler,” “Annapolis” and “The Italian Job.” In the past few months, he was “lucky enough” to step on set with Robert DeNiro on the film “Limitless.” Last year, while working with director Jason Statham (“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” “The Transporter”) on his new film “Safe,” Tygh became a stuntman. To get that job, all he had to do was ask.
“I mentioned to the assistant director that I was interested in pursuing stunt work to broaden my horizons a bit,” said Tygh. “Sure enough, things worked out in my favor, and a few scenes later I was being thrown through a table by a huge Samoan stunt man … Just another day at the office.”
Before being flung at tables, the theater roles and his stand-ins in Hollywood, Tygh received theater training at Archbishop Carroll High School in Radnor from David Brennan, a member of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Boy’s Choir. Instructors at the Playhouse West School and Repertory Theater in North Hollywood, California, also honed Tygh’s acting skills.
But his career on the screen began about a year after graduating high school. Tygh went on to study theater at Temple University in 1998. He left the following spring. At Temple, he “was bored to tears in some of the classes, going crazy listening to theories instead of actually doing the work.” When there was an open call for extras for the film “Unbreakable,” Tygh sent his pictures. “Sure enough, I got called and stepped onto the set for the very first time. It was surreal.”
Tygh’s most current role is with The Dramateurs at the Barn in Jeffersonville. He plays Mark Cohen, the “narrarator and heartbeart of the story,” in a production of the famed Broadway musical, “Rent.” The show opened May 6 and runs through May 21.
“I became involved with Rent years ago when I saw it for the first time in 1999 during a three-month tour stop in Philly,” said Tygh. “I fell in love with the show instantly. I then auditioned for the show and had countless callbacks. Finally, I had to take a job with another production in order to pay my own ‘rent’ so to speak.”
After leaving Temple, he paid bills by doing small local shows, like “Fiddler on the Roof,” working for radio station Q102 and selling subscriptions for the Walnut Street Theater over the phone.
Despite missing his first opportunity, Tygh pursed his “Rent” passion. He managed to befriend members of the original Broadway cast and made friends with other “Rentheads” while camping out for tickets. The play has always “had a special place in [his] heart.”
When another chance to audition for “Rent” presented itself this winter, he knew it was his chance to be a part of the production he has been so passionate about. Though Tygh has had the opportunity to work alongside some of America’s most famous stars, their stardust does not leave him stunned and yearning for Hollywood. He’s able to find different meaning in both theater and film.
“I love film because a film set is epic, such a spectacle. There are so many crew members, lights, trucks … The atmosphere is electric, and there is nothing like it,” he said. “On the other side of the coin, there is a beautiful intimacy with the audience in a theater. You can really connect with them. You get their instant and sincere reactions. Theater is like a high wire act with no net; you can train for months, but when it comes time to perform, if you fall, you fall.
“I don’t really prefer theater over film. They each have their benefits. The thrill with theater is the instant gratification that I get from hearing applause after a song or a laugh when a joke lands well. With a film, you have to wait months to find out if an audience is accepting of the work you put in.”
Ryan is also sometimes a stand-in. In other words, “Sometimes [I] serve as a human cardboard cut-out, and other times the director may hand me a script and have me do the actions and run the lines in order for everyone to get a feel of how the scene is going to run.” Off-stage, Tygh considers himself an everyday guy. He likes to go to the gym and read. Right now, he’s reading about that old Hollywood hero, James Dean.
The Barn Playhouse is located at the intersection of Christopher Lane and Rittenhouse Boulevard, Jeffersonville. For more information, visit www.barnplayhouse.org or call 610-539-BARN.