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5 Questions with Courtney Patterson

Star of Maytag Virgin

By Branden Cleveland

Branden Cleveland: Tell us about your first Aurora Theatre Production.
Courtney Patterson: My first Aurora Theatre production was a show called Heartbeat. It was probably around 2000 or 2001. They lost the girl who played the younger version of the wife and so they contacted a couple of people to see if they would be interested in being a replacement. Ann Carol called me because she was the audition accompanist at some of the auditions I had attended the week before. So Ann Carol called me and asked if I would be interested in being the replacement and discussed why she called me. She really enjoyed my audition pieces, but when she mentioned the pieces that I had performed, she was actually talking about someone else’s audition. Either way, I went in for the audition and everything worked out. On opening night I said to her “I must be honest with you, but when you called me I didn’t know who you were talking about. None of those pieces you described in my audition were anything that I did”. She and I just ended up laughing, but from then on I properly auditioned and went through the regular route and so that was my very first show at the Aurora.

B: What are the biggest challenges you face in taking on the role of Lizzy in Maytag Virgin?
C: You can describe Maytag Virgin as a romance comedy but it deals with some really heavy things. Just real life issues about what someone we love’s death does to us, how we are different after that event, how we move forward and how it’s different for everybody. That’s really tough. However, that topic can get swept under the rug when it sits under the umbrella of romance. Therefore, one of the challenges for me is to approach it with honesty and present the universality of this story even though it’s a romance. Especially because it’s a romance. Secondly, the dark theme of loving and living through death. I have not lost a lover or husband but I have lost dear friends. It feels different and yet it’s a challenge to express and articulate that.

B: Doing a play with only two actors must be intimidating. How does that affect your approach to the work?
C: Well, there’s a lot more lines but I’ve also done a one person show and I’m having a lot of flashbacks to that experience. Lizzy’s character has pages and pages of monologues. What’s challenging, intimidating, and super exciting is that every moment has to be full. It has to be lived to the max and it has to be alive. It’s also about really actively listening to every single word and what word has a major effect.

B: How do you bring honesty to role when the character is dealing with something you never have (in this case, being a widow)?
C: I feel that an important technique of acting is that you can’t be always be expected to experience every single event that your character has experienced. I think it’s important to really listen to the words that my character says, but also what is said about my character. I will always approach a script believing 100% of what my character says, unless it is very blatantly expressed in a text, stage direction, or from the playwright that what he/she is saying is a lie. I will always believe that my character speaks with earnestness 100% of the time. Otherwise, why say it?!?!

B: As a hometown girl who has made her dreams of working on the stage and screen come true, what advice would you impart to a young person interested in pursuing an acting career?
C: The first thing I would say is if there is anything that lights your fire, if there is anything that gets you excited, then pursue that. The grind is really hard, this particular business is really personal, and we have to have a thick skin. Also, take as many opportunities that you can but never under-sell yourself and never let someone take advantage of you. Remember that there is extreme power in saying “NO”. By saying no to certain things, you start to take yourself seriously and you know what it is that you do that people want. Finally, learn from everyone that is in the room with you. I’m talking stage managers, props people, directors, fellow actors etc. Every single person has something that you can learn from. Have an observant eye, be quiet, listen, and watch what you like/ don’t like and why. Also, ask yourself “How can I make this room better”? You do this, and all of the ships ride.