Words by Moriah Joy. Image courtesy of Virginia Stage Company.
Patrick Mullins currently works as the Director of Public Works at Virginia Stage Company, where he has worked for fourteen years in various positions. Virginia Stage Company is currently working on hosting various classes, workshops, and performances to help keep the theatre community alive during these difficult times. Patrick will be hosting a workshop focused on Shakespeare Friday March 27th, 2020 at 12pm. I had the pleasure of video chatting with Patrick to learn more about him and how the theatre community is evolving as we face uncertainty.
Moriah Joy: Was there a show that inspired you to pursue theatre professionally?
Patrick Mullins: Well, I grew up doing theatre in church. I think I didn’t see my first professional show until I was in high school… Les Mis. I was in the nosebleeds at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. I came into theatre more through a community viewpoint… church community. I enjoyed it and it just kinda grew. So I don’t know if there’s a first show that inspired me except I really liked performing, my MFA is in Acting but I really found my niche in the directing world. I just like storytelling.
MJ: Where did VSC get the idea to host online workshops, the Shakespeare workshop in particular?
PM: Well, I’m a Shakespeare nerd which is different from a Shakespeare expert. I really love it. I grew up in a really conservative world. The church that I mentioned earlier, we were only allowed to use the King James version of the bible which is that same era. I really grew up with that kind of text in a different way. As the world is ground to a halt, we’re just looking for a way to connect and serve the community. If me nerding out with some people about Shakespeare sounds like a good time then I’m all for it. I think what’s brilliant about Shakespeare is, we know that he coined a language that didn’t exist before. But Herald Bloom also credits him with the creation of the human almost. As he has some of the earliest three dimensional characters that are complicated and life is complicated and there’s a lot of people wanting it to be easy. With such beautiful language and poetry that expresses some of that. I love that- for his time period- that it was super accessible and populous. I yearn for that kind of theatre again, personally. And so there’s a little bit of hope to be found in that we can get back to that.
MJ: What do you find is the most challenging aspect of Shakespeare/ Shakespearean text?
PM: The most challenging aspect is the perceived challenge, the language. That it gets difficult or hard and it does. It’s technically not archaic but it is out of the common vernacular. But I think once you apply some rules to it, it becomes a little more transparent. And once you understand a little more the rules or the rhetoric, the language construction, it makes a little more sense. It really was the spoken word of its day in many ways.
MJ: What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while working with VSC?
PM: I guess the core thing of what I believe about theatre is when a community comes together to make something it’s always bigger than something you could make on your own. That’s true when you’re working on a project with a group of professionals or through our Public Works program. Art is more than just craft or skill it includes cultural expertise and knowledge and personal experience and when people bring their experience together with a sense of openness to make something more you can achieve really amazing, beautiful things. I think that’s the thing, no matter how much I think I know some days, I’m humbled by the fact that there’s such bigger things out there and how transformative that can be.
MJ: Do you have any advice for artists as we navigate these uncertain times as our platform that is dependent upon in-person interaction?
PM: I think the advice is how do we take advantage of the moment as far as sharing what we have. It’s amazing how many Broadway stars and so many more are offering masterclasses for free and how people are sharing their experiences. I think when the world is reordering itself in times like these, it’s really difficult but it’s also where opportunity lies for a lot of people who are looking for it. And a lot of great art has come out of these times and a lot of people who are already making great art have found great opportunities. If there is a positive spin, it’s that. I have a hard time talking about it because we have so many friends who have lost contracts, and jobs, and gigs because of this. I also think there’s no pressure to do anything but take care of yourself at this moment and that’s okay too.
For more information about the upcoming productions and workshops visit VSC’s Virtual Stage Page for more information. Workshops and new material are being added daily.