suppose the greatest thing I can offer the Milwaukee community
is to tell my stories about them and attempt to get the world
at large to see them," says Milwaukee-area native Brett
Ryback, whose musical, "The Tavern Keeperís
Daughter," was recently staged at the Skylight Music
Brett Ryback is
reluctant to admit that he gives back to the Milwaukee theater
community. "That makes me sound like Iíve achieved something
greater than I feel I have," the 27-yearold actor says. Yet this
busy actor composer/playwright, who lives in Los Angeles, comes back
to his roots literally and figuratively for creative inspiration and
worked as musical director on the First Stage production of "Seussical,"
a full-circle moment for this former First Stage kid who, at age 5,
played Fudge in "Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing." He also
wrote a musical, "The Tavern Keeperís Daughter," based on
his grandparentsí romance, which was performed at the Skylight Music
Theatre in February. "The story follows two Polish kids from
Milwaukee in the 1940s who run off to New York City and meet and fall
in love," he says.
grandmother, Wanda, was the inspiration for the playís heroine. The
organic local tie in came to Ryback during the writing process.
"As I was working on it, it occurred to me that it might be
something that Milwaukee theaters might be interested in because of
the subject matter. I sent it to Ray Jivoff at the Skylight."
Ryback credits Jivoff for his success. "He gave me my first job
when I was still in high school. I was the resident composer for the
Next Act Theater." In addition to "The Tavern Keeperís
Daughter," Jivoff features Rybackís music at the Skylightís
from Catholic Memorial High School, Ryback left Milwaukee to attend
UCLA where he received a bachelorís degree in music composition.
Ryback has been able to use his degree to stay gainfully employed in
theater and avoid taking a day job. "I work very hard to not have
to do that," he says. "I do a lot of music directing with
cabaret shows or musicals that are happening in L.A."
and writing keeps him busy, he does plan his schedule around
auditions. "I think of myself as an actor first and a composer
second. My week consists of two to five auditions or callbacks,
typically taking up my morning or afternoon. The other part of my day
is spent writing. Every once in a while Iím actually employed, and
that throws everything off," he jokes.
summer was fantastic. I was doing a play ĎThe Lieutenant of
Inishmore,í produced by Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles. I was
only in the second scene. I was making great money and every night I
would do this incredible scene, then go to my dressing room and work
on finishing my musical till I had to take my bow."
Paying the bills
without working at Starbucks is great, but Ryback has bigger goals.
"I would love to see my work being done in New York. Ultimately Iíd
love to have something done on Broadway. Iíd like to just be
consistently produced across the country."
As far as his
acting career, heíd like to make the jump from TV to movies. Ryback
has had small but meaningful roles on television. He was in a recent
Chevy Cruze commercial that featured the song "Skinnamarink-a-dinky-dink,"
and was Guy No. 1 on a 2009 episode of "How I Met Your
Mother" and a salesman in a 2008 episode of "House."
"Television is a big part of the game in L.A., but Iíve
discovered itís not what I care the most about," he says.
"Iím trying to break into more independent films."