Thursday, August 2, 2012

Meet Patrick Lawlor from A THOUSAND CLOWNS

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre is only a week away from opening A THOUSAND CLOWNS in the Cabot Theatre on August 9. We have fabulous people working on the show so we thought we would interview the cast.  Today we will be featuring Patrick Lawlor (Arnold Burns) who was just seen as Virgil Blessing in last season's BUS STOP.  Hope you enjoy his insights into the theatre world and our season opener!

What are some of your favorite moments in theatre that made you who you are today?

Patrick Lawlor
To work in the Theatre is to have countless moments that make you who you are. Just getting to do this for a living opens you up to endless little miracles, wonders, triumphs, tragedies. Taking on a role that you feel is beyond your ability and performing it well, doing free Shakespeare in the Park and getting acting notes from the local homeless guy who collects cans from the park's trash, getting "rained out" at an indoor theatre in Los Angeles when floods short out your electrics,  bringing classical theatre to inner-city kids or folks in depressed Appalachia, even waiting out a thunderstorm with the audience at an outdoor venue, all of these energize us in special and unexpected ways.  It's the odd little things that happen all the time in theatre that make me who I am today.

Other examples that come to mind include: explaining to a fellow member of a four-person touring show how it might be difficult to find fresh sushi in rural West Virginia, watching from the wings at American Players Theatre as a huge bat flew out of the trap door on stage during a performance of HAMLET, performing for children who are seeing their first show ever, and watching Stacy Keach's RICHARD III. All of these things and innumerable others are the stuff that keep me going.  Add to that, getting to learn by watching and performing with the remarkable actors that were around the San Francisco Bay Area as I was getting started in the late 70's through the 80's instilled in me that every person I work with contributes to who I am as an actor. I am grateful to continue my development and education with my talented and extremely generous co-workers in A THOUSAND CLOWNS .

Tell us about your first reaction upon reading A THOUSAND CLOWNS.

I first read it in college years ago and saw it as a silly piece, a warning about conforming and giving up. I was not impressed, though I did learn a monologue to use as an audition piece. Picking it up again for this production, with a little more life behind me and a VERY DIFFERENT experience. 

This time, I read a beautiful examination of life, relationships and responsibility. It had an examination of growing up, and what that does and does not necessarily mean. I no longer see "giving up," but rather "trading up" - letting go of certain aspects of childhood, or childishness in order to experience the benefits and rewards of maturity, responsibility and relationships with others. Murray is confronted with that moment (that we all SHOULD be confronted with at some point), when he realizes that there are some things that are more important to him than himself. How he handles that confrontation... Well, that's the play. It's a beautiful piece of theatre!

What’s it like playing an instrument (ukulele) you’ve never played before in front of an audience?

Patrick Lawlor as Virgil Blessing in BUS STOP
I love it! Playing music rocks and having to do it in front of an audience gives me that extra incentive to learn it! That said, it really doesn't apply to me in this play, but it has in several others.

From your perspective, how would you best describe your character?

Murray and I spend some time describing my character in the play, so you'll just have to see it to find out.

But briefly, Arnold Burns is a good guy with a good job (Murray's agent), a good family, a good life and a crazy, immature, wonderful brother who he loves dearly and worries about constantly

If your character could spend a day in Milwaukee, where would they go and what would they do?

Arnie would stay at the Pfister.  He'd get up early to find a farmer's market somewhere to grab some fresh fruit. He’d take a bunch of meetings at the local TV affiliates in the morning while Shirley and the kids check out the zoo. He'd try to time it so the Mets were playing the Brewers (or the Braves, if we stay true to the period, though in that case,  he'd probably still follow his beloved Giants, even though they broke his heart by moving to San Francisco) and he'd definitely catch the game that afternoon. He'd hook up with Shirley and the kids for a nice family dinner, maybe at Kopp's. Then a few calls to clients, etc., before ending the day with a relaxing cocktail with Shirley in the Pfister's BLU (or whatever it was called in 1962). 

Thank you so much Patrick for your kind words about your experiences in the theatre and also about A THOUSAND CLOWNS.  We all look forward to seeing your performance next week!

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