Recently, Providence Players own Patrick David was invited by a local Falls Church Business, DuBro Architects + Builders, to do a post on their blog about his experience joining the Providence Players. Here is that post:
Editor’s Note: Patrick David lives with his wife, Ingrid, in the City of Falls Church, a place that has been his home since his family first moved here in 1955.Schooled: Saint James Catholic School; Bishop O’Connell High School; University of Virginia (Speech and Drama); George Washington University – Masters in Information Technology. Patrick is currently at the FDA in IT, but his days stagehanding and set building at notable venues such as The Kennedy Center, The National Theatre and Ford’s Theatre give a hint to the voice he shares here at The Round Table about a prized venue in our community.
Since graduating from college in the 70‘s with a degree in Speech and Drama, I hadn’t tried my hand at acting in decades. Not until I saw a call for auditions in our local Falls Church News Press, back in 2005.
So, one evening over dinner with my wife, I casually mentioned that I might audition for a show. My wife looked at me blankly, waiting for the punch line.
“Go on..?” she said.
And I did. In our years together, I never quite revealed my long desire to return to the stage. Now, my secret was officially out, much to my wife’s delight. There was no turning back now.
The next evening, with considerable trepidation, I called the director and ran through the usual checklist:
“Do I need a headshot?”
“Do I prepare a memorized piece?”
Do I bring my own throw-up bag or will you provide those?
“Nope, just stop on by and we’ll go from there,” she replied.
Shoot. Had there been a “yes” to any of those questions: I was fully prepared with my exit strategy. Yet, her welcoming tone and words of encouragement were just the shot in the arm I needed to put my foot in the door.
I arrived on the appointed evening with a healthy collection of butterflies in my stomach and a head devoid of all but one question:
What on earth am I doing here?
I looked around: it seemed like I was crashing a family reunion. Lots of camaraderie and friendly banter. They didn’t know they were about to meet the black sheep of the family. The cousin no one knew about. Who, upon opening his mouth: would not be able to utter a single sound.
My thespian fantasy was slowly becoming my real-life nightmare.
The play was “Twelve Angry Men”, written by Reginald Rose in 1957. Many might remember it was first produced for TV with Henry Fonda playing the role of Juror No. 8.
The director asked us to read snippets of different parts with each other. Despite my fear of reading out loud, a fear held since high school, I surprised even myself and actually began to enjoy the process.
A few days later, the director called and asked if I would accept the role of Juror No.10, the bigot.
Are you sure you dialed the right number?
I was both dumbfounded and thrilled. And with that, I was about to put my big foot on the even bigger stage of community theatre.
Our cast was a group from all walks of life: a minister, a bus driver, a carpenter and two lawyers, just to name a few. The federal worker was dutifully represented by yours truly. A motley mix, but with one common thread: the love of live theatre. Despite everyone having full time jobs, the cast rehearsed 4 hours on weeknights and 8-10 hours on weekends. Long, busy schedules, but no one complained. And I was once again, hooked.
I have found that acting sometimes feels like walking a tightrope without a net. If you slip up: nothing will catch you. But then…someone does have your back: your fellow actors (provided you not alone on the stage.) I’ve had these actors deftly get me back on track after I’ve “gone down”, where I can’t remember my line. Or, even worse, if something unexpected happens. As was the case in the production of “Rough Crossing,” a play by Tom Stoppard, which takes place on ship.
In one scene, our “butler” exits the stage and in preparation for the next scene, completely douses himself with water. Unfortunately, he was preparing two scenes too early. As a result, he couldn’t make his next entrance, which left the four of us on stage, in a growing panic in front of a packed house of 200.
A few pro-longed seconds went by. Suddenly, another fellow actor boldly pronounces, “ I WILL GO LOOK FOR HIM ON THE UPPER DECK!” He exits. That left three of us on stage with no lines and no clue what to do.
Time ticked by at a glacier pace. We were left with no choice but to improvise a dialogue for what felt like the next hour. (I’m later told it was more like two minutes.)
Just before we had completely written another scene into the play, another actor comes to our rescue and promptly begins the next scene. And with no apologies to the playwright, we wound up skipping the entire 3rd scene of the 2nd act.
As a company, there are many moving parts that seem to miraculously come together for each production. The sets are designed and built from scratch; the lighting as well. Creating the costumes, decorating the set, finding the props, adding the sound, lighting the actor, lighting the set, marketing the show, selling the tickets….these are just some of the many spokes to this wheel.
Each moving piece brings us to that moment on stage. When the energy of the actors combines with the energy of the audience: its then the stars seem to align. You feel a part of that wondrous event called the magic of the theatre.
Since that first play, I’ve enjoyed many of these roles with the Providence Players – as an actor, set designer, carpenter, stage hand, house manager and usher, to name a few.
While I enjoy all these hats, it’s the acting which is my stronghold. Whether through the laughter of slapstick or the understanding of a complex character, it’s that fleeting moment of connection that brings me back to the stage every time, wanting to give more to the audience, more to that community. It is then I feel all the time and effort I’ve put in to rehearsing and memorizing lines have paid off.
The other day, I was shopping at Giant for dinner. A woman approached me with an inquisitive look. She said she remembered my face from a play she saw the year before. She told me that she and her husband had never laughed so much during a show.
I thanked her and as I walked away, I thought what a nice gift to give someone – the experience of really good theatre. It’s what brings me back every time.
So where can you find live theatre within walking distance of Browns Hardware Store? (A short trek: ten minutes, maybe fifteen – but well worth it.) Walk on over and you’ll find the Providence Players of Fairfax performing at the James Lee Community Center. Its one among a few great venues in our area, like the State Theatre and the Creative Cauldron.
This local, award winning theatre group is one of the best-kept secrets in Falls Church. They are the recipient of numerous WATCH awards and the 2009 Ruby Griffith Award for the production, “All My Sons.”
With off-off broadway ticket prices combined with critically acclaimed productions such as “You Can’t Take It With You”, “Moon Over Buffalo” and “Twelfth Night” : look no further than your own backyard for quality entertainment. Four times a year (and with one holiday show), this talented and dedicated theatre group brings the magic of live theatre to the City of Falls Church and our surrounding communities.
You’ll enjoy the action on our unique sets, many of which have been built by some of your own friends and neighbors. My wife has even become involved, lending her talents to set design and set decoration.
And hey, don’t be shy: if you have a secret ambition to be on the stage, come join us for auditions. I’ll bring the bag, but you probably won’t need it.
FROM PPF – Patrick, of course, most recently helped build the marvelous set that will be used in the Providence Players upcoming production of “A Christmas Carol“. You can get your tickets here. Throughout this holiday season, you will find Pat and Ingrid behind the scenes helping or in the audience. Join them, as we say, “on stage, behind the scenes or in the audience“!