MINNETONKA, Minn. (WCCO) — Ryan McCartan was napping when he got the big news.
“I woke up and turned over, and I had a text from a friend,” he said. “And she was like, ”Congratulations.’ I was like, ‘For what?’ And she told me I was a Presidential Scholar.”
Only 20 American high school students were named Presidential Scholars in the Arts this week. McCartan and a girl from South Carolina are the only ones to get the honor for theater.
This afternoon, McCartan showed off his swordsmanship in the lead role of the Minnetonka High School Play, Phantom of the Opera.
“I swing my blade over my head to kill him,” he said. “And Christine stands in front and says, ‘No, don’t.’”
McCartan has been acting since he was 8. He used to be involved in many sports, but scaled back after he was diagnosed with Type I diabetes.
“My sister was doing a professional show at the Children’s Theatre,” McCartan said. “I turned to my mom and said, ‘This looks like so much fun. I want to try that.’”
Not long after that, he auditioned for his first professional part and got it — at the Great American History Theater. Since then, he’s performed in productions at Children’s Theatre Company, the Guthrie and Minnetonka’s Arts Center on 7.
“He’s been acting for quite a few years,” said John Miller-Stephany, the point person for casting at the Guthrie. “I remember seeing him in a production even before he joined us at the Guthrie.”
Miller-Stephany remembers being worried about casting young actors in Lost in Yonkers. However, once he saw McCartan audition, his worries went away.
“It was extraordinary how he could hold that large stage at 13 years of age,” said Miller-Stephany.
Next month McCartan will perform before President Barack Obama at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
“I am very, very proud of this,” McCartan said. “I’m so incredibly excited. I could not be any more thankful for this award.”
Paula Engelking, Producer