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Volume 24, Number 9 — September 2017

Glenn Patterson is a frequent director at Theatre Bristol

Glenn Patterson
Glenn Patterson

By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | February 24, 2015

Glenn Patterson, regular director at Theatre Bristol, got involved in theatre in middle school with a small role in a play. "It wasn't until I got to Emory & Henry that I became seriously involved. There was an audition for "A Midsummer Night's Dream' and without thinking much about it I auditioned and got a role. It didn't take long before I was hooked."

He acted in his first show with Theatre Bristol while still a student at E&H. He began directing at Theatre Bristol in 1984 and has been heavily involved the last 18 months. In that time, he's directed "Miracle on 34th Street," "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and "Scrooge." His next show is "Les MisÚrables" in June.

"Some of my favorites among the shows I've directed are "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,' "Steel Magnolias,' "Annie,' "The Sounds of Music' and "Scrooge.' "Joseph' is a favorite, because it allowed for an enormous amount of creativity. "Steel Magnolias' is a very powerful script, and it was rewarding to see the intensity and the comedy come through. "Annie' is a favorite mostly because of the cast. It was one of those shows that was an especially great experience off stage and on. "The Sound of Music' is a show I've done twice. I think it's a favorite because of the differences as well as the similarities. "Scrooge' is based on my favorite book, and we're already working on bringing it back in the upcoming season.

"Over the years there are some shows I've enjoyed acting quite a bit, too. " The Glass Menagerie,' "Anything Goes' and "Follies' stand out as shows I remember fondly," Patterson says.

He has directed musicals and non-musicals for Theatre Bristol, but says the balance is more toward musicals, and he tends to direct plays with large casts and crews. "Of the last three, the smallest cast and crew was 40; the largest was 66. I enjoy working with large groups, whether music is part of the show or not."

His first directing influence goes back to his days at E&H. "Alan Pickrell got me started, and I learned a lot from him," Patterson says. "From that foundation I picked up tricks on how to organize and work the show from several directors I worked with in graduate school. I also did shows in the summers, including outdoor drama. I tried to learn something from every director, even if the lesson was something I wanted to avoid or do differently.

"I think my most important responsibility is to make sure the audience has a clear understanding of the story the playwright is telling, and that the show has the right emotional impact in the right places. I start with the script itself. I read it until I start to see it and hear it in my head. That gives me a starting point. From there I try to bring the pieces into closer and closer alignment with the vision. Where we start and how we work through changes, depend on where the show's challenges are."

Patterson says he loves two things the most about working in community theatre: the people and the process. "I don't think I've worked on a show that hasn't had someone who is new to Theatre Bristol, and usually we have at least one who has never done a show before anywhere. In a few weeks they come together as a cast and grow to be like a family.

"Rehearsals can be long and demanding, but everyone is there because they want to be and because they love doing theatre. In every cast I've seen people start as strangers and end as friends. Some of the friendships last a lifetime.

"As the director, I put in more time than most people would believe, but I also have more fun doing it than they would believe. The fun for me is having the vision of what the show will become and moving it toward all it can be. It's extremely gratifying to see the pieces fall into place — sometimes just in time for opening night."

Patterson says that depending on an all-volunteer cast and crew can be challenging, but is also rewarding. "We literally couldn't do it without them. It's always a challenge to find, train and rehearse everyone we need, keep it all organized and keep the production moving forward. Having said that, the volunteers are our strength too. Theatre Bristol is blessed to have some amazing people who are willing to give their time, their enormous talent and a lot of hard work to create great shows for our audiences.

"I have had the privilege to work with some extremely talented producers, music directors, choreographer, designers, carpenters, painters, stage managers and crew.

"I want to say a huge "thank you" to everyone who is making Theatre Bristol a reality in ways large and small. Without them, we couldn't do what we do," Patterson concludes.

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Topics: Theatre