Drama Graduate Lured by the Law

May 14, 2010 — Caroline Siobhan Ryon is moving from the footlights to the bar.

Graduating May 23 from the University of Virginia with a bachelor's degree in English and drama, Ryon started as a stage actress, interned with a film producer and now will start law school at U.Va. in the fall.

"I saw I had potential to do good through the law," said Ryon, who hopes to have a law practice representing the "creative talent." "As a lawyer with an entertainment background, I can relate better with colleagues. I can understand the production concerns, rather than just know the legal technicalities."

Shy as a child growing up in Kennett Square, Pa., Ryon said her love of singing enticed her to audition for a school production of "Hello, Dolly!" when she was in seventh grade. She was cast as "First Cook," with one line, and she began shedding her shyness. Performing became a source of confidence for her.

"I was hooked from the first," she said. "I could be someone else for a little while."

Active in high school and community theater, Ryon came to U.Va. as a Jefferson Scholar planning to study 19th-century English literature. But she also signed up for the First-Year Players and soon expanded her major to include drama.

Ryon, 22, is interested in all aspects of the business, having taken a course in playwriting and tried her hand at directing.

When she was looking for a summer internship, drama professor Richard Warner recommended she contact Julie Lynn, owner of Mockingbird Pictures in Los Angeles and a "double 'Hoo" with a bachelor's degree in foreign affairs and drama and a law degree. Ryon landed a position last summer doing post-production work on "Mother and Child," with Annette Bening, Samuel L. Jackson and Eileen Ryan. Directed by Rodrigo Garcia, the film was previewed at the 2009 Virginia Film Festival and goes into general release this month.

Ryon said Lynn inspired her. "Working with her was a defining experience. She is a role model for me."

After post-production sound editing and mixing, Ryon understood the collaborative nature of filmmaking.

"I met Rodrigo Garcia and we talked about filmmaking and he said whatever you do, it has to serve the story," she said. "Everyone has to work together."

Ryon will work for Lynn again this summer, possibly reading scripts. Analyzing texts is one of the skills Ryon developed as a student at U.Va.

"It's not just that her comments are reliably acute, insightful and responsive, but also that she articulates them with a clarity and generosity that makes every one in the room listen up," said Victor E. Luftig, an associate English professor. "She pursues ideas with the intensity of a hawk. And catches them, too."

Luftig, who taught Ryon in two January Term courses in Ireland, said she convinced him of the merits of a play he'd long neglected, and it's now become part of his Irish literature survey course.

Ryon believes she can still create while practicing entertainment law, possibly becoming a producer through a studio or an independent company.  She is learning as much as she can about the entertainment industry and developing more ways to express herself.

"I have taken playwriting here," she said. "I have some ideas I would like to write and see what comes to fruition."

"I suspect she'll soon be doing things for the benefit of American theater and entertainment in very prominent and productive ways," Luftig said.

When she was looking around for law schools, she settled on staying at U.Va.

"I based my decision on school rank and quality of life," she said. "I can still attend productions here and stay in touch. I have friends who will be living on the Lawn next year and the central Grounds are still quintessential U.Va."

— By Matt Kelly