Best of Olympia 2019: Jen and Ted Ryle

Writer's pick: Best Theater Couple

By Alec Clayton on February 28, 2019

Last year, Olympia Family Theater was recognized with an Excellence in the Arts Award in a gala at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts. This year, we choose the amazing couple behind the success of OFT as our Best Theater Couple: Jen and Ted Ryle.

Founded in 2006 by Jen Ryle and Samantha Chandler, OFT is a local theater company dedicated to bringing quality theater experiences to all-ages audiences. In the company's 12 years of operation, they have produced more than 55 mainstage shows, including five world premieres. Employing professional adult actors as well as child actors, OFT produces theater for children and offers a wide variety of classes and workshops for children.

"Olympia Family Theater is a very special place in our community and Jen and Ted Ryle are a great team," says actor Heather Christopher, who has performed in many shows there as well as at other area theaters. "They are like the sweet-voiced mom and goofy, charming dad of this big extended theater family that I feel so lucky to be a part of. Jen's eye for directing, and big-picture vision bolstered by Ted's unwavering support, has helped OFT grow into a beautiful oasis of warmth and creativity."

Ted wrote, stage managed, and composed the music for OFT's hugely popular musical Cinder Edna, which premiered at OFT in 2013 and was revised last year. He directed the company's recent production of 3 Impossible Questions (written by Christian Carvajal) and has acted in many OFT shows including their most recent, Flora & Ulysses. All-in-all, Ted has participated in one way or another in 25 OFT productions.

Jen is the company's artistic director and house manager and has worked behind the scenes on every show they've produced, and she has directed a dozen of their mainstage shows, including Flora & Ulysses.

The Ryles met at an audition at Shoreline Community College and were cast as a 70- and 72-year-old husband and wife. "We fell in love during that show," Ted says.

They were married in 1990. They have three grown daughters, Alexa, Mandy and Lu, all of whom have acted in shows at OFT, including their very first show, Alice in Wonderland, at The Midnight Sun in 2006.

In the first years, OFT shows were performed at The Midnight Sun, the black box at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts and the Minnaert Center at South Puget Sound Community College. Four seasons ago they took over the old Capital Playhouse on Fourth Avenue, renovated it and made it their permanent home.