Ryan Henry Performs One-Woman Show “Turn Me On”


Graydon Paul / The Villanovan

Henry performed “Turn Me On” at the Garey Studio on Jan. 26 and 27.

Julia Stanisci, Staff Writer

On Jan. 26 and 27 at 6 p.m., audience members gathered in the Garey Studio for “Turn Me On,” a one woman show in which Ryan Henry explores the various different versions of herself that she “turns on and off” depending on her surroundings. 

The versions performed were the softball player, the funny friend, the emerging artist and the grieving granddaughter, each of which contributes to the larger performance of being Ryan Henry. In her Director’s Notes, Henry explained that over the course of her four years in Performance studies at Villanova, she’s learned that “the art of the performance is not limited to the stage, it is something that narrates the human condition,” which she illustrates beautifully in “Turn Me On.” 

Throughout the show, Henry alternated between playing each character, or version, of herself. The transitions between each were smooth and clear, and the audience knew which version was being portrayed due to simple props like a softball bag, a stand-up comedy microphone and different seating positions. Characters were also supplemented by on-screen media, such as a softball highlight reel and an emotional video montage of Henry’s late grandparents. 

Henry’s “turning on and off” of each different character showed the audience how we all perform each and every day of our lives, whether we mean to or not. In sharing her innermost thoughts, Henry represented not only herself but also humanity, as we all have different versions of ourselves that we share with different people. While the show was entertaining and hilarious, it was also a commentary on the tendency of people in our society to self-disclose with caution and build up walls to guard themselves against pain and judgment depending on their audience. The performance also shed light on important social justice issues such as mental health in collegiate athletics, sexism in comedy and so much more. 

The Villanovan sat down with Henry to find out more about what made her decide to put on this performance and tell this story in such a unique way. 

She wanted to do a show from the second she declared a Performance studies specialization, as “the essay and presentation life is not for everyone,” but she also knew she wanted to do a comedy bit due to her lifelong passion for comedy. 

“I always knew comedy was really important for me to present, but to be completely honest, I credit my therapist for helping figure out this story structure,” Henry said. “During my sessions, I always said that I felt the need to turn on certain personas for different situations and slowly discovered over time the power and sometimes damaging elements these characters have in my life. ‘Turn Me On’ lets me play those roles in a safe space I can control and share the story I want.”

In her Director’s Notes, Henry also shared how the experience of putting on this performance has been for her.

“This piece has been one of the scariest yet hopeful experiences in my life,” she said. “Never would I have thought that the innermost thoughts in my mind would have had the chance to finally speak. The conversations shared throughout the creative development process have really changed my perspective on how I choose to perform in the world and I hope the show [allowed audience members] to do the same.” 

Henry also told The Villanovan that working with Evan Schares was her favorite part of the experience. 

“[Dr. Schares] has honestly changed my perspective as a performer and person,” Henry said. “His guidance and grace throughout the entire process was so much fun.”

After her graduation in May, Henry plans to return to Villanova to pursue a Masters in Theatre while using her extra year of athletic eligibility.