Born in Yonkers, New York, to second-generation Irish parents, Ryan attended Catholic elementary and high schools. She received a BA from Trinity College in Washington, D.C., where she majored in English. Selected as a participant in the Young Playwrights Festival at Playwrights Horizon, in New York, Ryan began her public playwriting career at the age of nineteen. Encouraged by that recognition, and following a year at Oxford and graduation from Trinity, Ryan enrolled in the graduate playwriting program at Columbia University where she completed an MFA under the tutelage of Howard Stein. While there, Ryan wrote Rescuing Marilyn, a satiric farce that skewers the conservative Right, which received a production at the Loft Theatre in Tampa, Florida. While at Columbia, she completed a literary internship at the Women's Project and Productions which began an association that developed into an artistic home for Ryan. In a cooperative production with New Georges, the Women's Project produced The Autobiography of Aiken Fiction in New York and has continued to develop her plays through readings and dramaturgical support. She is also a member of the New Dramatists. With composer. Kim Sherman, she is developing a musical, Leaving Queens, which was commissioned by the Women's Project.
Ryan's plays are characterized by an iconoclastic, quirky humor that is evident in the witty dialogue and often absurdly comic situations. The Autobiography of Aiken Fiction explores violence and the persecution of lesbians from a family perspective. The playwright was motivated by her investigations into teen suicide and her discovery that from 30 to 40 percent of those suicides are com