Dialogue with Actor Sean Patterson
His performance in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” at Rivertown Rep won Sean Patterson this year’s Storer Boone Award for best performance by an actor in a musical. He recently appeared in “For Better” at Southern Rep and “Renew Revue” at Le Chat Noir, and is currently in “Taming of the Shrew” at Tulane’s Shakespeare Festival. A native of New Orleans, he attended Jesuit High School and holds bachelor and master of fine arts degrees from the University of New Orleans.
What was your early theatrical life like?
Like a lot of people, I wanted to try New York, so I did. But I came back — as so many of us do — and I started working with Ricky Graham in a show called “Daryl’s Perils.” It was a spoof of a sci-fi from the ‘50s. I think of that as the show where I decided, “Before I try to make it work in New York, I’d better try to make it work at home.” I may be back in New York later this year though. I’ve been accepted to a musical theater writing program at Tisch (School of the Arts at New York University).
Do you have a favorite role among those you’ve played so far?
I’ve been very lucky in that there’s never been one I absolutely hated doing. I love anytime I can get cast against type. When I did “Last Madam,” I got to play a villain named Pershing Gervais. I loved doing the research to bring this character to life. I got to be filthy and nasty every night! Also, in a play that Ricky Graham wrote called “When Ya Smilin’,” I loved playing the young boy Paulie Dufour. I think every role has its challenges. In this one it was, how do I make this kid believable without just being a cartoon of a 10-year-old kid? For the role of Pershing Gervais, the challenge was: This guy is a bastard, but he’s a likeable bastard. Finding what is unique in each role — that’s the game, and that’s what makes it fun.
Was there a role that became a turning point for you?
When Carl Walker and All Kinds of Theatre selected me to play in “Fully Committed.” It’s a one-man show, but it has 39 characters. It was an incredibly challenging high-wire act. The conceit is, a restaurant reservations clerk finds himself alone at work one day, and he has to man all the phones himself. I played the clerk and all of the characters who called. The challenge was to make each one real and believable. I am a much different performer on this side of that performance than I was going into it.
During the first performance in front of an audience for that show, one of the phones rang, and the character that came out of my mouth was one that was supposed to come about four pages later in the script. I had left out those pages, and I knew I had to somehow get the missing information in or the rest of the play wasn’t going to make sense. So, I just sort of had to cue the phones and get those lines back in. I had a split second of panic, and then I just figured it out and methodically did it. By the time I got out of that performance, I felt invincible. I knew I could handle whatever happened on a stage.
What’s your recent schedule been like?
Well, when we opened “Renew Revue,” I was in rehearsal for “Taming of the Shrew,” and we were doing pre-production on “As You Like It,” which I’m directing, and we were starting to work on “Gutenberg!” which I’m doing with Gary Rucker in August. I’ll also be doing Patchwork Players (children’s theater company) this summer. I teach as well, at NOCCA and Tulane. I like to be busy. Fortunately, my brain makes it easy
to compartmentalize. •