Today is a very sad day for those of us who were involved with the 2010 production of “Clinchco, The Day After Payday.” We just received word that Ryan Milgram, who played the role of Mack, was struck by a coal truck today while working in a road crew, flagging traffic. He was just 21 years old. We will never forget you, Ryan. You were our brightest light. You were at every rehearsal, committed to the role and did great work. In addition, you were always willing to lend a helping hand. Ryan’s grandmother, Edna Gulley, played the role of Granny Hubbard. We are so sorry for this tragic loss.
I remember Ryan and his cousins walking down Main Street in Clinchco in mid-August of 2010. I was holding auditions for “Clinchco, The Day After Payday” at the Senior Citizens Center in Clinchco, Virginia. I had been waiting around all day, hoping someone would audition. Fortunately, Ryan’s grandmother, Edna Gully, showed up to say, “Hi.” but even so, I was getting panicky. Finally I went outside with Edna and said, “I am just going to grab people off the street to come audition.” That’s when I saw Ryan and his cousins. “Who is that?,” I asked Edna. “That’s my grandson and his cousins.” I looked at her as if she had been holding out on me and flagged them down. I asked if they would be interested in a play. His cousins were not interested, but Ryan looked at me with absolutely no hesitation and said, “That sounds interesting.” And so he joined the cast. It was that simple.
He used to come to rehearsals with Edna and he may have missed one or two, I don’t remember but he came even when he didn’t need to. He was interested in everything we were doing. He was quiet, would often sit by himself, but you could tell, he was thinking.
As time went on, I began to turn to Ryan for advice and help. He had a good eye and a lot of common sense. He was also a really good actor. Very talented. Smart. I enjoyed working with him so much. He took it all very seriously and listened to directions carefully.
One time, I was really kind of stuck. The stage was pretty small and I wanted to have two things going on at the same time. I wanted the Hill family worrying about Jonah on one side of the stage and the card game going on the other side. I remember Ryan coming up while I was struggling with it, quietly offering suggestions. His suggestions were good, so I used them. He and I also worked together the piece where Mack follows Jonah to the card game and watches out for him. Ryan really got into it and I believed his performance 100%. He was a good story teller in his own right. That turned out to be my favorite part of the show.
He always remained calm and took everything with a sense of humor. I know he made cast members laugh because someone was always telling me. “Ryan is so funny!” I’m afraid he was too respectful of me to joke around too much when I was around and I feel that I missed out.
I am blessed to have had the opportunity to work with him. I am honored to have known him. I don’t know why things like this happen, but one thing I know for sure…Ryan was one of the good ones. My heart is breaking, knowing what his family must be going through right now, especially his mother. My love, thoughts and prayers are with you. May the Lord bring you comfort and strength.
Love, Terri Madden