This month’s Theater Buff offers you a slice of Americana via the good looks and charm of David T. Patterson, currently starring in Transport Group’s ambitious William Inge repertory of Picnic and Come Back, Little Sheba.
David T. Patterson
You’re tackling two William Inge plays: Picnic and Come Back, Little Sheba. That must have been an intense audition process — what was it like?
The initial audition was just another day at Pearl Studios. But the callback process was a trip. It was a chemistry read with the four girls they were considering for Madge, and it was the scene (spoiler alert) where my character breaks down, kisses her passionately, and then carries her offstage.
I remember frantically googling “do you kiss in a callback” on the J train heading over that morning, ’cause I had no idea what the protocol was for that. In what felt like a truncated episode of The Bachelor, I did the scene twice with each different girl. The scene was so different every time, which I loved, and thankfully I brought ChapStick and Listerine breath strips that day.
For those not familiar with Inge’s work, how would you describe these plays in terms of their place in American theater history?
Inge was a contemporary of Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, and was actually more initially successful than they were. These plays explore American loneliness, and yearning like no other playwright since. Inge has a beautiful mix of the poetic and the quotidian.
Picnic is a true ensemble piece. There are no set changes and no real breaks in storytelling. Come Back, Little Sheba was also groundbreaking in that it was one of the first plays to ever open a discussion on alcoholism, gender roles and domestic abuse. Both shows have very strong, beautifully written female characters, and Come Back, Little Sheba is told completely from one of their points of views. Inge was way before his time in a lot of ways.
What has been director Jack Cummings III’s approach to these plays?
It’s been all about the text and the acting with these productions, which is so exciting. It’s pared down. Simple set. With a beautiful, original score by Michael John LaChiusa featuring the vocal stylings of our very own Hannah Elless and some really gorgeous lighting. Jack gave the cast a lot of freedom to explore and embody these characters, which is so appreciated. He made a point to honor what Inge intended and focused on the humanity, loneliness, and yearning of the two pieces.
In Picnic, you portray Hal, a ‘drifter.’ If you were to wander off for a few months, where would you head and why?
I’d backpack through Europe. There is so much history and so many cultures to explore, as well as cuisines to try and people to meet. You can be in a completely different world in less than two hours. Also, I’ve always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. Make the jaunt up from Georgia to Maine, then roam around New England some. I love being in nature and I love eating lobster. Win-win.
If I weren’t a performer, I would be:
In advertising. Don Draper, minus the chauvinism, womanizing, and secret past.
Places, Intermission or Curtain Call?
Intermission. The show is under way, those initial nerves are gone, you’ve established a rapport with the audience. Plus, I can go back to the dressing room and goof off with John Cariani.
The best post-show cocktail in New York City is at:
Lillie’s Victorian Establishment on 49th Street in midtown is super classy and near all the theaters. Good Old Fashions, with a cozy Old World feel. And for a solid beer list and a quieter spot to talk, Hurley’s Saloon is a great spot to decompress after a show. Unless it’s fight night.
After you’ve hit all the traditional sites of New York City, you should totally go to:
Either of New York City’s botanical gardens. They’re both far away, so it’s definitely a trek, but worth it! I’m a big fan of the Orchid Festival in the Bronx and the Cherry Blossom Festival in Brooklyn. I also love Smorgasburg, which is a huge food truck/stand outdoor market. The one in Williamsburg is great because it’s right on the water. And I love the Brooklyn Bridge Park. I’m a park guy. #sorrynotsorry
If I could live anywhere else in the world it would be:
Montana. Near Big Sky. On my own ranch.
My workout “secret” is:
Meal prep. Technically it’s outside of the gym, but the kitchen is where the real progress is made. Making/bringing your own meals isn’t only healthy, but it’s also cost effective. And don’t skip leg day.
When I’m looking for a date, nothing attracts me more than:
A great smile and laugh. A sense of humor is super important to me. As well as good dental hygiene.
My favorite website to visit that you may not have heard of is:
Duolingo. Technically it’s an app, but it’s free and can help you learn a language on the go. Factcheck.org is also a pretty useful site these days, too…
People would be surprised to learn that I . . .
Was very sickly and scrawny as a kid. Severe peanut allergy, severe asthma, plus lactose intolerant. I was “that” kid. The kid who sat alone in a corner every day during lunch because if I were near a PB&J I’d break out in hives and pass out.
When I was 10, I wanted to be just like:
Ten years from now I’d like to be:
Transport Group’s Picnic and Come Back, Little Sheba play through April 16 at The Gym at Judson. Click here for tickets.
Matthew Wexler is The Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on social media at @roodeloo.