...(and Brad Fraser in particular)
by Steven Patterson
Steven Patterson has performed both Off- and Off-Off-Broadway in NYC, and regionally with such theatres as Kaliyuga Arts (which he founded with his husband, John Sowle, in 1986), South Coast Repertory, Capital Repertory, TheatreWorks, Lexington Conservatory Theatre, Chenango River Theatre, Centenary Stage Company, Depot Theatre, Contemporary Opera Marin, and the Oregon, Orlando, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, and Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festivals. A few of his favourite roles have been Lear, Prospero, Michael Williams in Henry V, Austin Wiggin in The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World, David in Poor Super Man, Judi Boswell in How to Pray, The Creature in Frankenstein, and Jean in Beauty, a one-man show inspired by the life and works of Jean Genet which he created, performed, and toured with internationally for four years. He currently resides in Catskill, NY.
the show itself was pretty out there and we were never certain quite how audiences were going to react to it
All the way to 1995, in fact. Our company, Kaliyuga Arts, had been producing shows in L.A. and San Francisco (where we were living at the time). We’d just had a conspicuous success with a solo piece I created for the 1994 San Francisco Fringe Festival inspired by the life and works of Jean Genet called BEAUTY. But at the same time we were dealing with SRO audiences and lines down the block, something felt off. The crowds were almost exclusively gay men and a large part of the show’s appeal seemed to stem solely from its sexually graphic nature and its abundance of nudity. The following summer, we loaded up the back of our pick-up and (not without trepidation) headed cross-country to present the play a second time at the Montreal Fringe Festival. Trepidation because we were heading into a Francophile culture with a particularly American take on an iconic French author. And also because the show itself was pretty out there and we were never certain quite how audiences were going to react to it. The total embrace we felt in Montreal (both from audiences and critics) was visceral and immediate. I sat in a corner of the Festival’s Beer Tent following our first performance literally sobbing with relief. As we stood in line for other Fringe shows that summer (which included Rick Miller’s first outing with MACHOMER and the incomparable Jill Dowse’s X: THE RISE AND FALL OF AN ASYLUM STAR, little old ladies in their 80s would come up to me and tell me how beautiful and moving they’d found the piece. I was constantly having to reassure myself that they hadn’t misidentified me and that they really were talking about the show where I sliced open the palm of my hand and simulated masturbating with the blood. Finally, finally the play was being perceived as we’d intended it to be; as “theatre” and not just as “some guy with his pants off.” And by an amazingly diverse and literate crowd, not just the show’s natural niche audience.
Don’t know why it’s taken us so long to revisit Brad’s work (well, moving to New York and building a house in the interim probably had something to do with it), but we’re finally back in rehearsals for one of his plays again. We’ve been hoping to do TRUE LOVE LIES for several years now, but our major obstacle wound up being able to locate the right actor to play – David McMillan. The way his character has developed over the course of several plays has been phenomenal (and a real gift to any actor lucky enough to play him). But I felt that the direction he’d taken in his life between POOR SUPER MAN and TRUE LOVE LIES made him an uncomfortable fit for me as an actor (Kane feels much more me at this stage). There was another acquaintance who we felt might have been ideal for the role, but the direction his career has taken recently plus timing and scheduling issues made that impossible. Fortunately, I worked a couple years back with Kevin Craig West, our current David, in a production of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD in Albany and he agreed to take us up on our offer to play the role. Not certain, but I believe this may be the first time a black actor has taken on the mantle and it’s adding some intriguing nuances to our production.