Last night I enjoyed an evening with American icon, Tony, Grammy, and Olivier Award winner Patti LuPone at Blake High School at ArtSpeak!. ArtSpeak! has been around 18 years and the 850 people who filled up the auditorium at Blake High School broke the ArtSpeak! attendance record. Patti LuPone is in town for her performance tonight at ‘Arts By George‘ at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts..
Last night she was interviewed Q&A style by ArtSpeak Founder Mark Shugoll and some of the young audience members at Blake High School, in Silver Spring, MD. Between the questions and answers she also performed three songs. She also took questions from the audience.
The auditorium was filled with enthusiastic high school students who seemed cultured beyond their years, and LuPone savored her role mentoring the arts crowd.
Shugoll praised her for caring about arts education, and in her straight-forward way, she responded, “I’m glad to see Blake High School support the arts!”
LuPone delved into her past. She is originally from Northport, New York which is located on Long Island, where they do clamming in the summertime for industry. Her “oldest friend in the world,” who was in the audience, grew up in Northport with her, but now lives in Virginia.
Music flowed through her starting at a young age. At age four she knew she wanted to sing. She took dance lessons and fell in love with the audience. “I couldn’t get in trouble and do whatever I wanted, and everyone was smiling at me!”
Everyone was involved with the arts in her school. In third grade she was reading music and everyone had an instrument. She broke the neck of her cello, “poor cello!” LuPone shared, “It’s important that schools integrate everybody!” The star quarterback would sing too.
Patti isn’t the only talented person in her family. Her brother Robert majored in ballet and and was a member of the Alvin Ailey dance troupe, and has appeared in many shows on the stage.
LuPone then broke into song with piano accompaniment by Chris Fenwick, “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy” from South Pacific. She strode the whole stage to the appreciative audience. And later she sang a gorgeous rendition of ‘Sleepy Man’ from The Robber Bridegroom.
LuPone then jumped back into answering more questions. Her first professional gig was an opera in 1969. She attended The Julliard School and attended the Spoletto Festival in Italy which she called “amazing.” A rich Texan flew her and all the students to the festival. “Those were the good old days-when we had patron of the arts!” She remembers seeing the famed Ezra Pound leaning out a window watching the Spoletto Festival.
When Mark Shugoll revealed to LuPone that Thursday was the 35th anniversary of Evita, LuPone seemed surprised. However, LuPone’s humor started to show through.
Mark: How did you get the role?
Patti: I auditioned! (Laughter erupted!!)
The most fascinating part of the night was LuPone’s unfiltered view of her experience with Evita. “I didn’t understand the hype behind it. I didn’t like the music or Evita. It was the worst experience. I couldn’t sing it. I would go on stage in fear. It was a huge life lesson. It’s a very difficult role. Evita’s harangue was like Sarah Palin’s. With Evita you loved her or hated her. The music was written as if she is singing that way.”
Gypsy and Anything Goes are her all-time favorite shows and roles. Bette Davis is her all-time favorite actress. Her favorite color is brown. Her favorite food is Italian and Japanese. “Japanese food is high energy food!” Her favorite band is The Band.
LuPone shared many memorable stories. She is always careful on stage to ensure she doesn’t fall. However, one time, as an understudy, she tripped on the hem of her dress and went flat on her face. She also revealed during Anything Goes a rose petal flew down from the fly space right into the cleavage of her dress. It was as if it was planned. She has had three people die during her shows. One time a member of the orchestra had a heart attack and they had to stop the show. When she told the audience they would resume in ten minutes a guy shouted, “Don’t do it Patti! Tony Bennett wouldn’t do it!”
LuPone also mentored the audience. “You have to train. This is a craft. You need to be armed with technique. Everyone can sing if it is truthfully and from the heart. The ideal actor is still. You draw attention by not moving. To keep your voice, remember to breathe, avoid loud places, be vigilant, and use your diaphragm and belly.”
The most charming part of the night was when a 14-year old high school student named Brant was picked to ask her three questions on stage. He was almost hyperventilating from the excitement. He asked her about dating Kevin Kline for seven years during her Julliard days. He exclaimed, “Seven years is a long time, that’s half my life!” The audience and LuPone erupted into laughter.
This was such a fascinating and exciting night! It was such a great honor to hear this great theatre legend speak and inspire so many young theatregoers, artists, and performers. I urge everyone to support ArtSpeak! and arts in the schools.
Running Time: Almost two hours.
Patti LuPone performs Shouda, Coulda, Woulda tonight Saturday, September 27, 2014 at 8 PM at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts – 4373 Mason Pond Drive, in Fairfax, VA 22030. For tickets, purchase them online. Here are directions and parking information.
Patti LuPone’s official website.
A chronology of Patti LuPone’s theater career.
A Chat with Patti LuPone on ‘Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda’ on September 27th, 2014 at ‘Arts by George’ at George Mason University by Joel Markowitz on DCMetroTheaterArts.
In the Moment: This Saturday 9/27/14: ‘ARTS by George!’ at George Mason University: An Interview with Co-Chair Mark Shugoll.
ArtSpeak! was created and continues to be produced by Shugoll Research, a Bethesda based market research company, as a part of its corporate commitment to support the arts and arts education.