On the Couch with Terry Ryan

Terry Ryan AAR On the CouchWho is Terry Ryan?
I worked for over 30 years as a professional puppeteer, actor, writer and director. I worked across theatre, film and television beginning with the Marionette Theatre of Australia in 1983. My last job was doing puppetry on an Australian Retirement Trust commercial in December 2023, although I am pretty much retired these days.

Career highlights include The Ferals for ABC TV, the film Babe, national theatre tours of The Hobbit and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (they wrote an original solo song for my character, Mr Beaver, that suited my bass voice) and a three-year international tour with Walking With Dinosaurs. My name drop performance venues on this tour include Madison Square Garden in New York and the O2 in London.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
I wish that I was braver and had more confidence when I was younger. That being said, my performing career turned out much better than I could have anticipated. But currently, I enjoy my life very much. The key is to be occupied and creative. Although I have sung in many choirs over the last twenty years, I only joined the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir at the beginning of 2023. I maintain it was my best decision of that year. Perhaps I should have joined it much earlier!

Who inspires you and why?
I am in awe of performers who keep performing into old age. I have lost my desire to perform at that level any more, but actors like Peter Carroll are amazing to watch. Also, the younger generation of actors are so talented. I’m not sure that I would have been as successful if I was competing with the current generation of performers.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Much of my working life was working with children, either performing for them, writing and directing for them (I worked at Marian St Theatre for Young People close to 40 years, teaching, writing and directing plays with teenage casts for very young audiences. The seasons were for over 30 performances, the only training of its type in Sydney).

I think much more needs to be done to support young people in achieving their potential. In a dream world, I would like to set up mentoring programs between children and older peers who might be able to help them to see what is possible. Real life connections rather than online distractions. Support, support and more support to help young people navigate this increasingly scary world.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I have been very fortunate to have travelled widely in my life. I think my favourite destination was Peru. The people were friendly, the scenery was amazing and I had such a wonderful time.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
Sydney Opera House, preferably to see a show, Botanic Gardens and Art Gallery of NSW are the top of my list. Also, if Vivid is on – take them to that.

What are you currently reading?
Ok, I am cheating, but I recently finished John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies – which was such a joy to read. I cried – often!

What are you currently listening to?
The playlist of our Back to the 80s concert as I try to get those lyrics and harmonies into my head!

Happiness is?
Being with family or friends enjoying good food, good wine and excellent conversation. I am very fortunate to have a large family of several generations and we all like each other. And I have excellent taste in friends, with whom I could not live without.

What does the future hold for you?
Coming up very soon is the Back to the 80s concert with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir on 8 June at the Seymour Centre. The music is so familiar, because it’s what I danced to back in the 1980s when I was in my twenties and life was full of so many possibilities as well as the sheer terror of finding one’s way in the world.

A tricky time to be a gay man, with the AIDS epidemic, not being legal in NSW until 1984 and when gay bashing was regarded as a sport. But right now, I get to relive memories by finally finding out the lyrics to songs like Walk Like an Egyptian and remembering to sing my harmony rather than the melody! After that, a couple of holidays to Sri Lanka and Indonesia to explore some more unfamiliar places.

Terry performs in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir’s Back to the 80s concert on Saturday 8 June 2024 (5.00pm & 8.00pm) at the Seymour Centre. For more information and tickets, visit: www.seymourcentre.com for details.

Image: Terry Ryan (supplied)