Young performer shares talent at theatre, schools and church

Ryan Koerber

YAPHANK — When he was only four years old, Ryan Koerber got his first “clue” about what he wanted to do in life. After seeing the “Blues Clues” live show at Radio City Music Hall, he was inspired to sing and dance on stage.

Now, the St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School sophomore, who turns 15 this month, already has an impressive professional resume and is using his talents to introduce younger kids to musical theater by directing shows at his alma mater, Our Lady Queen of Apostles Regional School in Center Moriches.

“It’s what I love to do,” the teen said recently, taking a quick break from his busy schedule of school, homework, rehearsals, dance classes, singing with the children’s choir at his parish, St. John the Evangelist in Center Moriches, and scaring people as a clown at Gateway’s Haunted Playhouse in Bellport.

This past summer he was in the cast of “Phantom” at The Gateway Performing Arts Center of Suffolk County, a professional theatre company in Bellport where he began taking acting classes soon after that trip to Radio City. It was his 14th role in a “mainstage” production there where he has performed in plays such as “Beauty and the Beast” (he played Chip) and “Sweeney Todd.”

“I learn so much doing shows at Gateway,” he said. “All the actors are professionals. They have been on Broadway.” He explained that during the summer season at Gateway, each show runs three weeks, rehearsing for only two weeks before that. “It is amazing how it all comes together,” he said. “People are so professional and work hard together.” When he is not on stage during the summer, he works as a member of the house staff, so he is getting experience at all levels of theatre production.

With his busy schedule, you might think Ryan doesn’t have much time for hobbies, but he loves watching cake decorating shows on television and taught himself to make specialty cakes worthy of his own TV show.  He has done cakes for special events at Gateway, including a multi-tiered creation for its recent gala and a cake in the shape of Bellport’s barn-turned-theatre for actress Sally Struthers who celebrated her birthday while performing in the cast of “9 to 5: The Musical”  there over the summer.

Ryan hopes to get a bachelors of fine arts degree in college, and is appreciative of his Catholic school education as a great start. A member of the company at Stage Door School of Dance of East Patchogue, he lists dancing as his “favorite passion” among his loves for singing, dancing and acting.

“One of the reasons I chose St. John the Baptist is that their arts program is phenomenal. There are a lot of dancers at the school, which is great. It’s a big school and helps me prepare” for college and beyond. He joined the musical and drama clubs there and is currently in rehearsal for “The Odd Couple,” playing Murray the Cop. Last year he had a lead in the musical “Damn Yankees.”

“I look at the world and realize how good an education I’m getting and I know I am lucky,” he said. “At OLQA, I learned a lot about the basics and history of my religion. At St. John’s, we go further into our faith and how, as teenagers, we use our faith to make decisions.”

He doesn’t remember a time when he didn’t sing in the parish choir and participate in school and parish activities. When he was at OLQA, former principal Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Helen Ann Charlebois wanted to do a show for the community to celebrate the successful completion of their Middle States Accreditation and asked Ryan to help. When he was in eighth grade he directed a middle school production of “Beauty and the Beast.” Current principal Stacie Stueber invited him to continue and last year he directed “Seussical, The Musical.” He recently conducted an improv workshop for interested sixth, seventh and eighth graders and said he enjoys giving others the chance to see what the theater is like.