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Behind The Scenes...
with Wendy Patten

How did you get started in theatre?
Recently: I blame it all on Kevin Franznick.  I worked for a photo company and he owed us money.  We talked and one day he asked me if I liked theater.  I told him yes.  He invited me to come down and help with the Gray Wig's
production of Jesus Christ Superstar.  He told me he would call me but never did.  I went down anyway and Mark Kohn (whom I'd just met) put me to work as an usher.  I ushered almost every show.  After that I started working backstage for shows, then more, and more and...Prior to that I had not done theater since I was a high school student working backstage and occasionally performing in summer camp.  My brother loved to perform and I always loved theater.

What hooked you? School play, Broadway show, etc.
There was something about the magic of theater that I always loved.  When I was young I set a goal to see 20 Broadway shows by the time I was 15.  I didn't make it but I remember going as much as I possibly could to shows.

What was the first show you ever worked on?
That would depend on what you mean by worked on.  I was in Grease at camp, which would technically be the first show I worked on but I worked as a Stage Manager for Damn Yankees at camp the next summer.

What was first show you ever saw?
My first Broadway show was Peter Pan when I was 6 or 7.  I'm sure I saw other shows before that but I don't remember.


What is your position on a production?
Stage Manager, usually, although I'm willing and able to do many other things backstage.

Describe what your job entails.  What are the duties of a Stage Manager?
(This question is for the unenlightened out there :-) Well, the Stage Manager works on all phases of the show: Initial casting:  Setting up the room and waiting area, getting together the audition sheets, running the auditions, calling the potential cast for call-backs, call the potential cast to offer roles or tell the person they were not cast (my least favorite job) Meeting with the producers, directors, designers, technical directors, staff, etc. to coordinate schedules and the design and vision of the show Rehearsals:  Setting up rehearsal schedule, starting and stopping rehearsal, noting absences, ensuring cast arrive on time, writing down the blocking
including how the director says the character should be played, taking notes on blocking errors, following the script and ensuring all cast
are 100% on their lines. Technical runs of the show:  Laying out which cast or crew will be
responsible for which technical moves.  Deciding how and when set and prop pieces will move in accordance with the script.  Working with the light and sound designers to get the exact cues and timing of cues.  Ensuring all cast have costumes and all needed costume parts.  Getting props.  Setting up prop tables.  Figuring out how the set can be stored in the tiny wing space J.
This is my favorite. Running/Calling the actual shows:  Calling cast arrival times, ensuring cast
sign in and arrive for each show on time, re- setting the stage with the crew, verifying stage preset and wing preset is done, calling the lighting, sound, fly and spot cues as needed (or in my case usually - running lights or sound and calling the other cues).  Watching the shows and noting any technical and line errors and giving the notes to the cast or crew so they can be fixed prior to next performance.

Did you go to school to learn what you do?


What has been your favorite show to work on?
Kiss of the Spiderwoman
The current shows I am doing

What motivates you to keep doing what your doing?
I LOVE theater.  All aspects of it.  I want to learn what I don't know and do what I haven't done.  I feel good every time an audience applauds for a
show.  I love to see subtle light changes that make the show look better, to hear a sound cue that makes an audience jump, to see audiences react to a well-performed show with either tears, laughter or applause.

How do you feel about pre-casting?
Where?  On Long Island?  Well, the problem is that every director I have ever worked with says "If I had to cast this show right now without any
auditions, who could play these roles?" and they get names in their heads. They HAVE to, not enough people come to auditions.  They then hope maybe they will see someone they haven't thought of or don't know who will blow them away.  Auditions are trying for the potential cast as well as the directors and stage managers.  But if no one shows up, there is a serious casting problem.  Also, none of the directors I have worked with have ever pre-cast a show without notifying others that it was pre-cast.

What was your worst theater experience?
Wow, well, that would be recently.  I could not possibly go into the details of this without this interview taking up pages and pages.  I recently Stage Managed an Off-Broadway show of "Something Cloudy, Something Clear" by
Tennessee Williams.  The cast was ok.  The director was awful.  I couldn't understand a thing he wanted from the cast and, therefore, couldn't help them to understand what he wanted.  The tech was ridiculous.  There were constant
problems with the treatment of the actors and I spent half my time away from rehearsal on the phone with the Equity reps trying to solve problems.  Also, my ASM constantly complained in general about the director to me and the
cast, adding more fuel to the fire.

What was your best theater experience?
I have had so many wonderful experiences in the theater but I would have to say that Kiss of the Spiderwoman was probably the best.  It was definitely the pinnacle of what I have done and could do on Long Island.  The cast was won- derful, everyone got along so well, like a very tight knit family.  The set was great, worked well in the space, my spot op was excellent, my ASM
was phenomenal.  The musical direction was wonderful.  I made life-long friends from that show.  And it was directed by Jon Grodeski.

If you could give one message to ALL of the actors out there, what would it be?
Go to auditions.  Go to auditions.  Go to aud- itions.  I know they are tough. There are a thousand reasons why you might not be cast and very few reasons why you would be cast - the director sees you as right for the role.  Also,
please, if you can accept ensemble, do so.  No show, on LI especially, can be done without an ensemble.  If you can't or won't accept ensemble, be honest on your audition form and say no.

If you could give one message to ALL the producers out there, what would it be?
Have production meetings.  They are VITAL to get all people on the same page.

If you could give one message to ALL the directors out there, what would it be?
Get a good Stage Manager to help you and make/let them do their job.  Your job will be so much easier.

If you could give one message to ALL the other techies out there, what would it be?
Keep at it.  No show can be done without you.

Why do you work at the theatres that you do?
Well, actually, I worked at CAP because I love the people there and the directors I had the pleasure of working with.  I worked with those same
directors in other locations because I liked working with the directors and they requested me. I now work in Manhattan.


Do you think Long Island theater will continue to grow?
Yes and No.  I think it is a great thing but right now the theater on Long Island is saturated.  Fewer playhouses strategically located bringing
together the best of the best would be better.  It is very expensive to run a theater and I believe many are struggling.

What brings you greatest joy?
Watching the actors in my show get a standing ovation.

What irks you?
Actors who refuse to get their lines right or get annoyed when I give them a note about their lines. Sloppy spot operation - a spot moving when the target isn't.

If you won lotto tomorrow you would...
Pay off all my debts, get an apartment in NYC and get my resume into every single Broadway and Off-Broadway show.

Is it true you would rather be rich than good looking?
LOL - this is a cute question.  Actually, I don't care that much about either.  Being rich would be nice.

What's your favorite word?
I have several and I use them regularly especially during tech week.

Assuming that there is a heaven, what do you want to hear when you get there?
That was a great show - loved every minute of it.  I really lost myself in the show.


Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like the readers to know about?
Well, I'm working on a play festival at Altered Stages (212 W 29th St).  I am Stage Managing 2 of the 3 full-length plays.   All shows are free so if
anyone wants to come see them, please do.  They are much much much better that the last show I did (which was awful).  The shows I am working on are called "Boxing Between Friends" and "Home".

What is your dream theatrical project?
Directing Chess
Production Stage Manager of a big musical on Broadway