Young Playhouse actor returns 'home' for fourth season


Ryan Sketch happened into acting quite by accident.

"I was in a high school class called 'Understanding Horses,'" says Sketch, a northern Kentucky native.

He had to switch to a theater appreciation class, and eventually a seed was planted.

"I was not into the class," says 23-year-old Sketch of his initial approach to the course. "I slept a lot."

But the teacher caught his attention over time and encouraged him to audition for a play. He did, and wasn't cast. But in his junior year, he was cast in a play, and did three plays his senior year of high school. He became a member of the National Thespian Society and received a catalog called "Dramatics." In it were a number of summerstock theater listings, including the Pioneer Playhouse.

"It was about two hours away, so I called the Colonel (Eben C. Henson) and he told me the amazing story of the Playhouse," says Sketch, who is in his fourth season at the Playhouse. "So I came that summer and worked while my friends were on a senior trip at Panama City. It was a good summer - I enjoyed it."


Then he went to college, studied theater, and didn't plan on returning to Pioneer Playhouse.

"But the Colonel offered to pay me," Sketch says with a grin.

He performed in "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" that summer, went back to college and worked with an agent in Cincinnati. He did auditions for commercials, then agreed to come back to the Playhouse last summer. After that season, he attended Southeastern Theatre Conference auditions with fellow Playhouse thespian Andrew Willett. In fact, they stayed at early-season Playhouse fav Eben French Mastin's house while attending the SETC auditions.

Willett and Sketch did a tour in the South, then Sketch moved to Boston in December. He did a couple of shows there, then talked to Charlotte Henson about returning to the Playhouse this summer. He's glad he returned.

"It's been a great summer this year," Sketch explains. "It's such a talented company this year. It's an all-star, dream company. And outside of acting the people are great, too."

He enjoys the role he is playing in the Playhouse's current production.

"(Donald) is a funny character," Sketch explains. "He's a little bit older" than roles I usually play.

He says the play, "You Can't Take It With You," didn't immediately "grab" him.

"Now that we're doing it, it's hilarious."

He says Henson has been saying that this comedy may be his last stint on-stage.

"If it's his last show, it's nice to do my last show with him," Sketch says.

The challenging side of Sketch's career, he says, is wanting to succeed.

"I want to be the best," he says. "I get paid to entertain. ... I want the audience to go home and think about what I said (on-stage)."

Sketch says there are a lot of emotions tied to the Playhouse.

"The Colonel said he considered me and Andrew family," he notes. "I have a lot of passion for the theater, and a lot of love for this place. ... I am very, very blessed to have such an opportunity to come to a place like this. I get paid to do this and I love it passionately."

"Charlotte and the Colonel are amazing people. If there were a million people in a room, they'd stand out. I owe them a lot. They helped me find myself and my career."

Sketch says he also owes a lot to his parents, Madaline and Peter Sketch. The latter adopted Sketch when he was about 15, as his mother and biological father divorced before he was born.

"After high school, Peter and I meshed together well," Sketch adds, noting his parents will be moving to Greensboro, N.C. later this summer. "(My parents are) so supportive of this. My mom's always finding auditions.

"I've been blessed with a pretty good life so far. I have a great family."

He grins.

"And there's a lot of theater in Greensboro."

For now, Sketch plans to attend SETC auditions again in September, and he's in discussions with a touring show for a winter gig.

"And Andrew and I working on a screenplay together," he adds, noting that project probably won't be completed in the near future.

Sketch says Willett and he initially didn't become friends, but over the years their friendship has solidified into, in part, a business partnership as well. Sketch was in Willett's senior project, a film, before Willett graduated from college. Elisa Abatsis, another Playhouse ensemble member, also has become a good friend, he notes. In fact, he lived with Abatsis when he moved to Boston last winter.

"They say these are the years you'll form life friends," Sketch says. "That's great in this business."

Sketch and Willett hope to write, act, produce and direct as well as start their own film production company, Sketch says.

"I think we'll do it," he adds. "We're both very driven and very blessed."

Wherever he goes and whatever he does, Sketch knows he'll return to his professional theater roots.

"I'll always come back to Danville," he says. "It's where I started.

"You come back to your roots. It keeps us grounded."

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