A&F NewsletterSpring 2004
He may not be a household name, but that’s OK with Wayne Bryan. The producing director for Music Theatre of Wichita spoke to 44 students from Douglass High School March 3 that culminated a day of workshops by the drama department at Cowley.
Exactly 31 years ago (March 4, 1973), Bryan played a patient who spent most of the episode in a coma on the hit television series “M*A*S*H.” The episode was titled “Sticky Wicket.” Hawkeye and Frank spent most of the time arguing over Frank’s ability as a surgeon. When one of Hawkeye’s patients (Bryan) starts failing, Hawkeye begins to reflect about his own abilities. Bryan’s appearance came during the series’ first season. Recently, when “M*A*S*H” came out on DVD, Bryan received a check for a whopping $10.
Today, Bryan is in his 17th year at Music Theatre of Wichita and couldn’t be happier. He spent a little more than an hour telling students about his career, about MTW, and what it takes to become successful. He began by asking a series of questions. “Why do people want to become actors? What drives people to do this for a living? What do performers do for a living that others don’t?” Bryan asked. Responses varied and included attention, the thrill of it, and money. But Bryan said that if he were to call any of the actors’ unions, 90 percent of those represented by unions would not be working. “Today, only about 10 percent of actors are working,” Bryan said. “They make so much money that they don’t have to work every day.” Bryan said the expression of emotion, to step into someone else’s shoes, is what really drives actors. “There’s always something we don’t like about ourselves,” he said. “When you get to be somebody else, you can forget that you’re too tall, don’t like your nose, or you’re overweight.”
Bryan grew up in Southern California. His father was an attorney, and the family never gave the arts much thought. Bryan entered college near Santa Barbara as an English major studying pre-law. Then the Vietnam War began, and Bryan spent three years in the Navy. After he was discharged, Bryan landed a few spots in TV commercials and worked nights in San Diego. Eventually, he took off for Los Angeles to “make it as an actor.” Following the lone episode of “M*A*S*H,” Bryan had some recurring roles in soap operas and was cast in the Broadway show “Good News.”
It wasn’t long, however, before he got a phone call from Wichita. “They said, ‘you seemed nice when you were here two years ago,’ ” Bryan recalled. “Seventeen years later, I’m still here.” Bryan showed a 10-minute documentary on Music Theatre of Wichita produced for PBS. One of the main points Bryan made about MTW was its constant relationship with young people. “A lot of them have gone through college, and they’re in their prime physically and mentally,” he said. “After they leave here, a lot of them go to New York. We have a lot of alumni in Broadway shows playing right now.” MTW opened in 1971.
Today, Bryan produces five shows during a 10-week summer period. This summer’s schedule: “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” June 9-13; “Annie Get Your Gun,” June 23-27; “Me and My Girl,” July 7-11; “West Side Story,” July 21-25; and Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” Aug. 4-8. Although he doesn’t make a habit of it, Bryan has a leading role in “Me and My Girl.”
Also on March 3, Bryan:
Told students about resources, including a directory of theatres by state.
Gave tips on publicity photographs and resumes.
Addressed top skills all actors should possess, including the ability to read well, voice projection, taking TV and stage classes, and to “have desire, take rejection, and move past it. Hang out with positive people.
”Bryan ended by telling the students, “Whatever your dreams are, I encourage you to pursue them.” Earlier in the day, Cowley’s Director of Technical Theatre Scott MacLaughlin presented a session on set design and construction, and Director of Theatre Deb Layton conducted an acting and audition workshop.