Ryan Bernsten

Ryan Bernsten

Ryan is a recent graduate of the University of Oxford’s Creative Writing master’s program. Recently, ATLANTIC––a collaboration with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and his alma mater Northwestern University––won critical acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Other works include DREAM TICKET (Players Theatre, off-Broadway) which was recommended by the Huffington Post and Time Out New York and won the NY...
Ryan is a recent graduate of the University of Oxford’s Creative Writing master’s program. Recently, ATLANTIC––a collaboration with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and his alma mater Northwestern University––won critical acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Other works include DREAM TICKET (Players Theatre, off-Broadway) which was recommended by the Huffington Post and Time Out New York and won the NY Fringe Excellence Award; BAD PRESS (Cherry Lane Theatre); THE NEW ORDER (Oxford University Dramatic Society, Corkscrew Theatre Festival); and his one-man show CAMPAIGN/NO GAIN, performed internationally. Ryan has been published in USA Today, The Oxford Political Review, Zagat, The Infatuation, and The Oxymoron, and worked with CONAN and The Onion. He is the host of the “50 States of Mind” Podcast, which has listeners in over 40 countries and been featured in Conde Nast Traveler and Kansas City NPR. More at ryanbernsten.com.

Plays

  • We Are Blood
    A recently widowed New Yorker and her son return to her estranged sister's Thanksgiving in rural Missouri requesting a debt be repaid. Over the course of the visit, they uncover an unforeseen new family member, deep class resentments, and find themselves face to face with the demons that dwell among the strangers we call family.
  • Dream Ticket
    In this political satire recommended by TimeOut NY, Huffington Post, and The Producer’s Perspective, populist businesswoman Becky Roberts and maverick senator Les Sugarman compete for their party's presidential nomination—despite a history that wasn't strictly political. When media pressure forces them to run on the same team, their dream ticket becomes a nightmare.
  • Bad Press
    In this political satire, a former U.S. President recruits a national joke to run in the Democratic primary, hoping to sabotage her bland husband's competition and ensure victory. However, the media's hunger for drama has unintended consequences as the power couple attempts to harness the bad press for their own ends.
  • The New Order
    In this post-apocalyptic thriller, a widowed mother and daughter on a rural farm take in survivors as an act of goodness in a desolate world. All is well until the arrival of an other-worldly order of nomadic nuns. When rations run scare, the nuns begin imposing their strange doctrine on the house and when the tenants fight back, they find that their dogma is much deadlier than anticipated.
  • What Happened at Jimmy Carter's Funeral
    THE FUNERAL
    At the funeral of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, all living presidents and first ladies gather to pay their respects. During the eulogy of the current President (Don), the Secret Service interrupts to whisper something confidential to the President… and naturally Don immediately blurts out to the funeral that there’s been a terrorist attack. In the pandemonium, Don and the first lady Melania...
    THE FUNERAL
    At the funeral of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, all living presidents and first ladies gather to pay their respects. During the eulogy of the current President (Don), the Secret Service interrupts to whisper something confidential to the President… and naturally Don immediately blurts out to the funeral that there’s been a terrorist attack. In the pandemonium, Don and the first lady Melania are escorted out, but closely tailed by the other living presidents and first ladies…

    THE “9/11” BUNKER
    Under the lawn of the Naval Observatory across the street, Don, Melania, Hillary, Bill, Barry, Michelle, Laura, and George all mill about in a secret bunker waiting for information. Don is not happy about the other former presidents being brought along, and refuses to let them into the briefings. Hillary, meanwhile, discovers that the bunker was also used as a wine cellar for the last V.P., and goes to inspect vintage wines. Michelle, upon discovering that none of them are allowed to leave, gets extremely claustrophobic and panics, convincing herself that perhaps the terrorist had actually killed them and they are in some version of Sartre’s hell. When Barry calms her down, she admits that this was irrational, as there’s no way “some of them would ever be in hell.” Laura overhears this, and asks her to clarify that none of them would ever be in hell. Michelle hedges, and Laura gets worked up, before vehemently defending that her husband George is a good man. Michelle is surprised, clarifying that she was talking about Don. George is surprised and upset to hear that his wife believed that he was the damned one. When Hillary returns with wine, George (a recovered alcoholic) surprises everyone by asking for a drink, worrying Laura. The group begins to drink and hash out old grievances, from their legacies to sexual harassment. When the conversation turns to Don and Bill’s infidelities, Melania speaks up for the first time to berate Don for the damage done to their marriage. When the Secret Service comes to request Don for a briefing, Hillary uses the moment to shoo the others from the main room and has a candid discussion with Melania about what it feels like to be publicly humiliated by a famous husband. George returns, drunk, and begins to dance. The room, now tipsy, is coerced into dancing with him, and there is a moment of uncensored fun. The Secret Service returns and reveals that the terrorist attack was a plane crash, and the moment is shattered. George suggests a drinking game he learned in Skull and Bones where everyone gives their own eulogy, and Don volunteers. Hillary suggests spicing up the game, requesting that a player gives someone else’s eulogy instead. She volunteers to give Don’s eulogy, and though she begins by lampooning him, she begins to vent her frustration with American exceptionalism through the eulogy, stunning the group. After the group discusses the factors that lead to Hillary’s loss to Don, Bill offers to give Hillary’s eulogy in a touching but misguided attempt to bolster her spirits. As he classically makes it about him, he gets overwhelmed, and faints. As others go to find first aid, Hillary takes care of Bill and he reveals an illness and offers a candid look at his regrets in life and also his deep love for Hillary. When everyone returns, George is properly drunk. Michelle demands to be removed from the bunker, causing the Secret Service to reveal the stakes of the attack. To lighten the mood, Laura gives George’s eulogy, which unintentionally salts wounds about his own fears about mortality and his fate after death. During the eulogy, George begins crying and has a breakdown about his guilt for the Iraq War and the lives that were lost. In a drunken rant, he talks about his relationship with his father, God, and destiny… before vomiting all over the floor. The tension turns to hysteria, as the scene goes black.

    THE HANGOVER
    Well. It turns out the “terrorist attack” was a narcoleptic amateur pilot crashing a personal plane into a government building, and suddenly everything that seemed so dire now seems very silly. Everyone is embarrassed by their candor and drunkenness. The presidents lament the burdens of power and the loss of it, and Don admits his sad life philosophy. The play closes on the usual group leaving the bunker, with a final moment between Barry and Don, who admits the only thing they can all agree on: nothing lasts forever.

    At Jimmy Carter's funeral, all living presidents and first ladies gather to pay their respects. During the eulogy of the current President, the Secret Service interrupts to tell the president there's been a terrorist attack. In the pandemonium, Don and the first lady Melania are escorted out, but closely tailed by the other living presidents and first ladies. In a secret bunker at Naval Observatory across the street, Don, Melania, Hillary, Bill, Barry, Michelle, Laura, and George all wait for more information. When they discover a box of vintage wine, they begin to drink and hash out old grievances. When Michelle gets claustrophobic and panics she convinces herself that perhaps they are all actually dead and in some version of Sartre’s hell. In light of the catastrophe and (aided by wine) each of the U.S. Presidents is confronted with their legacy and mortality in this political comedy about death, joy, and how hell is not only other people, but your own choices.