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Happy Camper


Photography courtesy of Shawn Ryan

Shawn Ryan has landed his share of gigs on TV and in movies such as American Wedding and First Daughter. He also performs an old-school cabaret show on both coasts. But, every summer, the Pleasanton native returns to Northern California, where he organizes a camp for kids who also dream of showbiz careers.

Now in its eighth year, Young Actors’ Theatre Camp runs for two weeks this month in the Santa Cruz Mountains and one week in December at Livermore’s Camp Arroyo. Ryan’s faculty is impressive—this month’s camp will feature sessions with comedian Debra Wilson Skelton (MAD TV), Broadway choreographer Jeff Whiting (Young Frankenstein), and actor Angie Harmon, whom Ryan met last year while filming an episode of her top-rated show, ABC’s Women’s Murder Club.

“This is the kind of camp I wish had been around when I was growing up—it covers more than just performing. The kids get to act, direct, work on set design, and learn about auditioning,” says Ryan, 30. Ryan points out that the camp is for serious but not necessarily experienced showbiz hopefuls, ages ten to 18.

“We’ve had kids who have never stepped onstage and some who were just about to study at Juilliard next year. The key is that they have the commitment to really learn the craft.”

When camp ends in July, Ryan will go back on a 15-city tour with his cabaret show, which premiered to rave reviews last August at San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre. A mixture of music and comedy, the show was penned by comedian and TV writer Bruce Vilanch, a former regular on Hollywood Squares.

“Just after Bruce wrote Bette Midler’s new Las Vegas show, he saw me perform and gave me the greatest compliment. He told me, ‘You have a touch of the Midler,’ ” says Ryan. “I asked if he would be interested in writing something for me. To my amazement, he said he would.”

Ryan will host a Young Actors’ Theatre Camp benefit concert on June 3 at the Rrazz Room at San Francisco’s Hotel Nikko, (415) 394-1189, www.therrazzroom.com. Young Actors’ Theatre Camp runs June 22–July 2 in Santa Cruz, $1,490, and December 26–January 1, 2009, in Livermore, $895, www.youngactorstheatrecamp.org.

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