If art can imitate life, so too can life imitate art -- or at least a TV show.
Kyle Ryan is captain of the football team and a star wrestler who was expected to go to the state finals this year.
But Ryan, a 6-foot, 275-pound senior, also has a deep love for theater. And in a story that could have been torn from a recent episode of "Glee," when offered the lead role in the school's spring musical, Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods," he knew something had to go. That something eneded up being wrestling.
“There are some similarities to 'Glee' for sure,” said Ryan of the Fox-TV show, which focuses on the divide between the glee club members and the jocks, two of whom try to do both.
“There are always those people who try to make fun of you for what you like, but you just have to say, ‘This is what I love doing.’ It’s a lot of fun. Ultimately, I’m the one enjoying it, I’m the one having fun.”
For most of his high school career, his love of theater took a backseat to athletics. After a concussion sidelined him for part of the football season this year and postponed his return to wrestling, he decided to audition for the musical. About the same time he learned he had been cast as the lead, he was cleared to return to wrestling full time.
“I chose theater over wrestling this year because it’s something I love so much and never fully had the chance to participate in,” he said.
“Sometimes I have that part of me that misses wrestling because I’ve been wrestling since I was in the third grade. This year I had such a passion for performing my love just poured into the theater. I have no regrets. I made the right choice.
Ryan heads a cast of 21 in the “Into the Woods” production, which runs from March 18 to 20 in the PNHS Auditorium.
“This is a smaller cast than most of our productions,” director Jason Hawkins said. “Past productions of 'Annie' and 'The Sound of Music' have had casts twice this size.”
More than 70 students auditioned for the 21 parts. The plot weaves the story of a baker and his wife with that of several Brothers Grimm fairy tales, including "Little Red Riding Hood," "Jack and the Beanstalk," "Rapunzel" and "Cinderella."
“The show is actually very complex both musically and intellectually,” Hawkins said. “It features a musical score by Stephen Sondhiem, the same composer of the music for 'Sweeney Todd.' This show brilliantly intertwines famous fairy tale characters into a story line of a baker and his wife’s desperate attempts to reverse a curse casted upon them by a witch.”
Ryan plays the role of the baker.
“The baker is very kind, he’s in a sense very innocent and naive, but his intentions are good,” Ryan said. “I realized that I have a lot of the baker in me, with being unsure of myself or second-guessing myself.”
Hawkins said the students have thrown themselves into the production.
“This is an extremely dedicated cast,” Hawkins said. “They have put hundreds of hours into this show and are doing a great job. This is one of those shows that is unobtainable by many high schools, and I am very proud that they have put in the effort needed to make it happen.”
Being cast was "very exciting,” said senior Taylor Katz, who plays the part of Jack’s mother from "Jack and the Beanstalk."
"It’s a big commitment," she said of the 12-hours days she's putting in at school plus weekends, "but it’s worth it. This is what I love doing.”
Audiences can follow the baker on his journey into the woods during shows at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and students. Seating is general admission and the doors open a half hour before show times. Tickets can be purchased the day of the show or during school hours weekly at Plainfield North’s main office. They can also be reserved by calling 815-609-8506.