Ryan is a speaker, writer, theatre-maker, and a Webby Award-winning creative. Ryan received his master's degree from the University of Oxford, where he graduated with honors and received a distinction for his narrative non-fiction account of his American travels, 50 States of Mind: A Journey to Rediscover American Democracy, which will be published by Bite-Sized Books in 2023. Onstage, ATLANTIC – a collaboration with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and his alma mater Northwestern University – won critical acclaim at Edinburgh Fringe and DREAM TICKET (Players Theatre, off-Broadway) won the NY Fringe Excellence Award and was recommended by The Huffington Post and TimeOut. Other credits include WE ARE BLOOD (Kansas City Public Theatre, Olathe Civic Theatre, upcoming); BAD PRESS (Cherry Lane Theatre); THE NEW ORDER (Corkscrew Theatre Festival, Oxford University Dramatic Society Best Play for Voices); NOVEL (Charlotte Street Foundation, Kansas City Scratch Night). Ryan is a contributor for The Infatuation and has been published in USA Today, The Fulcrum, and The Oxford Political Review, and worked with CONAN and The Onion. The companion podcast 50 States of Mind won the King’s Hall Grant and can be heard where podcasts are found. He is also a Slytherin contestant on the quiz show HARRY POTTER: TOURNAMENT OF HOUSES hosted by Helen Mirren on TBS, Cartoon Network, and HBOMax. Ryan is currently the Senior Managing Editor at The Trevor Project, overseeing editorial strategy to end suicide among LGBTQ young people.
Is America as divided as it seems? Oxford University graduate student Ryan Bernsten takes a 23,000-mile journey through all 50 states of his home country to answer that question. 50 States of Mind: A Journey to Rediscover American Democracy is a work of travel nonfiction in the style of Alexis de Tocqueville that takes readers on a long and winding journey through all 50 states to explore the complexities of today’s America. Leading with the desire to listen and overcome preconceived notions, Bernsten ultimately offers a hopeful vision for the future of America as he embarks on a search for meaning and reflects on what it means to be American. The companion podcast “50 States of Mind,” featured in Condé Nast Traveler, showcases live interviews from the journey and is available on all podcast platforms. The podcast has been featured on the Two Broads Talking Politics, Sanity, Chicago Indivisible, Northwestern Intersections, and Travel For a Loop podcasts and in Condé Nast Traveler.
PRE-ORDER US HARDCOVER EDITION (JUNE 20, 2023)
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PRAISE FOR 50 STATES OF MIND
“If you are sadly convinced that our country is hopelessly divided along political and cultural lines, then I strongly urge you to read the book that is guaranteed to give you hope.” - Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky
“Any politician, whether aspiring or actively in office, would do well to heed the words of 50 States of Mind… the book's much-needed prescription for angst and depression provides hope and a sense of purpose to modern America's struggles which is largely missing from newspaper headlines, but encouragingly present in this book. It considers the influences that polarize America, the nation's hopeful possibilities, and the pulse of a people living, breathing, and interacting to create a new American story.” - The Midwest Book Review
“Soulful, refreshing, and surprisingly funny, 50 States of Mind cuts through the divisive noise of the political moment. By approaching those he meets with humility and a commitment to listening, Ryan creates a portrait of the country which shows that, at the end of the day, most Americans have the same goals: strong communities and hope for the future.” - Jason Kander, former Missouri Secretary of State, U.S. Senate candidate, host of Majority 54 Podcast
“Clear-eyed, searching, and hopeful, 50 States of Mind reminds us that democracy is not a perpetual motion machine. Without the kind of open-hearted curiosity that fueled Ryan Bernsten’s powerfully moving cross-country journey, this all falls apart. With it, America has a future.” - Samantha Allen, author of Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States
“In 50 States of Mind, Ryan Bernsten gives us a deeper, more nuanced, and ultimately hopeful portrait of our shared American life. Throughout these pages and across the miles, Ryan’s humble approach – rooted in authentic curiosity about his fellow Americans’ lived experiences – reveals to the reader that we are less divided than our politics suggest. Reconnecting to each other at the community level based on what we share in common is a necessary way out of the political morass in which we find ourselves. With compelling vignettes and lasting insights, this book is a timely reminder that politics is always first and foremost about people.” - Nick Troiano, Executive Director, Unite America
“Bernsten started his trek to understand one thing: why are Americans so divided? 50 States of Mind tackles this question in a most endearing way as he journeys through every state, having dozens of conversations with real Americans. These discussions led him to a realization: the simple act of engaging with others can be transformative. In fact, it might even be the thing that can make us whole again. This is recommended reading for everyone—especially those who are tired of being outraged and ready to be inspired by the power relationships have to fulfill our lives and create a better society for all.” - Claire Bishop, Executive Director, American Public Square
"Dream Ticket brings satirical Republican politics through Ryan Bernsten’s highly focused Democratic lens to shed light on our corrupt love of candidacy drama, instead of where the focus should really be—on the American people." - Theatre is Easy
"With comedy like "Veep", drama like "Scandal" and Sorkin-esque wisdom and sensibility, Dream Ticket by Ryan Bernsten is an aptly timed political play." - Theatre in the Now
ATLANTIC: AMERICA & THE GREAT WAR
"... a moving and dramatic piece of theatre." - British Theatre Guide
"tackl[es] what it means to be American. The themes and dialogue allow us to look back in glorious hindsight to the faults of the time, while the emphasis on the dangers of the media draws relevant parallels with present times... and is undoubtedly an excellent theatre piece." - EdfestMagazine
Two ambitious writers mine their trauma to create a masterpiece in a writing program helmed by a horror novelist, only to make a terrifying discovery about the program's endgame.
Charlotte Street Foundation, 2022*
Kansas City Scratch Night, 2022
"Maniacal" - Charlotte Street Audience Member
"Twisted" - Scratch Night Feedback
WE ARE BLOOD
Is family forever? In this horror/thriller, a recently widowed New Yorker and her son return to rural Missouri to evict her estranged sister from their childhood home. Discovering the house in disrepair and the inhabitants experimenting with occult magic, the family is forced to exorcise demons from their past.
Kansas City Public Theatre (Theatre Lab, 2021)
Northwestern University (Zoom Reading, 2020 password: Frances)
Ashland New Play Festival (Semifinalist, 2022)
Austin Film Festival (Semifinalist, 2020)
Rave Theatre Festival (Finalist, 2020)
Kansas City Script Circle (2020)
University of Oxford (Workshop, 2019)
THE NEW ORDER
In this post-apocalyptic thriller, a widowed mother and daughter take in survivors to help rebuild their farm. All is well until an other-worldly order of nomadic nuns arrives seeking shelter—as the Sisters start imposing their strange doctrine on the household, the tenants fight back against a dogma that is far deadlier than expected.
Kansas City Horror Play Festival, 2022
Oxford Best New Play for Voices, 2018
Corkscrew Theatre Festival, 2017
Listen to the radio play produced in partnership with Oxide radio.
DOUBLE FEATURE AT HOLLYWOOD AND VINE
Double Feature at Hollywood and Vine re-imagines Shakespeare's Twelfth Night set in 1930s Old Hollywood. When two twins are tragically separated on their journey to a better life in Los Angeles, the sister, believing her brother dead, assumes his identity to get work as a movie extra, only to take the silver screen by storm... as a man! When her brother unexpectedly arrives in Hollywood, struck with amnesia, mistaken identities, love triangles, general hilarity, and an unforgettable reunion ensue in this Shakespearean retelling.
Fundraiser for the ACLU by Wide-Eyed Productions
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.