by Allyson Yoder
Ian Christiansen and Ryan Bernedino are at home in the theatre. Beyond performing in numerous shows around the valley, Ryan helps run the theatre club at his school, and Ian is a drama teacher. But for both of them, the Light Rail Plays are something new, raising themes of adaptation and how we respond to the unexpected.
What do you do when not doing Light Rail Plays? I go to Vista Verde Middle School, which is far away from here. I live about 35 minutes away, so I have a long commute to get here.
Does your school have a theatre program? “No, not really. So me and my friend Ben are actually running our own drama club after school. Our teacher asked if we were interested in running it last year, so we said yeah and we actually have eighteen people signed up right now. We also have the choir teacher come in, and we have half of it lean towards music, and then the other half we play theatre games that are educational in terms of how to use the body and all that.”
How long have you been involved with RYT? “About a year. I auditioned for “Shipwrecked” and got into that. I jump around with a lot of theatre companies. I’ve done Teatro Bravo, Rising Youth Theatre, Fountain Hills Theater, I just do whatever play I see and want to do.”
What is it you like so much about theatre? “Well, I’m not very good at sports, so that’s never been an option. And this is just a lot more fun, because you can make people feel emotions that they don’t usually feel. I love being in control of people like that.”
Has anything surprised you so far, compared to other things you’ve done? “I was surprised when I got on the train, and I realized how much we’d have to change each performance, and adapt, just to make it go right. Just because people are sitting in different spots, so you can’t have set choreography, and times always run differently, so you have to adjust that too.”
What is it like to work with Ian? Ian’s cool. I’d never met him before, which is weird, because I knew almost everyone else here. He’s really cool. He’s definitely my type of person, because he has a sense of humor. Which I like, because I usually make jokes that… some people would probably be offended by! But yeah—he’s cool!”
What do you do when you’re not doing Light Rail Plays? “I’m a theatre teacher and storytelling teacher at Arizona School for the Arts, and I’m also a professional actor, so I’m in shows around town. And I also have a small terrarium business on the side.”
What exactly is a terrarium? “A terrarium is a small microgarden contained in usually a lidded vessel that has its own environment inside. So, it’s an easy to maintain garden that you can keep inside.”
What makes Light Rail Plays different than other productions you’ve done? “Well, one thing is, the audience is going to be different every time. The geography is going to be different every time, because you don’t know what space is going to be filled that might not have been before. I’ve never performed on a moving vehicle before, so that whole atmosphere changes. And, I haven’t done mass performance in a while, so I’m really glad to be doing that again.”
Talk about your piece: “Our piece is called “Unpacking,” and it’s about a father and son who are relocating after there’s been a loss in the family. We’ve lost the mom. And so we have to make kind of this uncomfortable move. So since the light rail has a transient quality too…we thought we’d explore the idea of a family having to make a new beginning. And so it’s about the difficulties of changing your environment; it’s about how much the father and son need each other; and it’s about being willing to try something new. We don’t completely resolve the problem—it’s not, like, puppy dogs and rainbows at the end. But, we at least find some common ground where we’re both trying.”
What has surprised you? “They put me with someone smarter than me! Cause Ryan’s a little whip. And what’s also surprising to me is that there’s so much nonverbal and physical stuff, as opposed to spelling everything out. I really think that’s refreshing.”
On youth driven theatre: “I think most of the stories deal with the element of youth, and being a young person, in some capacity. Or, using the vivaciousness of a young person performing. It’s not necessarily always about being young, but it’s about the imagination and vitality that’s brought to it because you’re using young adults.”