Sunday, April 14, 2013

Gamecock Diaries, Prologue: My Dinner With Jim

Longstreet Theatre at the University of South Carolina
A few months ago, I had the pleasure of spending an evening with my grad school professor and friend, Jim Patterson.  We've done a pretty good job of keeping in touch with each other since my graduation 16 years ago.  In the intervening years, he retired from his position at the University of South Carolina, and has spent his time traveling and writing theatre text books. 
Jim Patterson

He and his partner come to New York several times a year to see the new shows, and this time, they had made the trip from South Carolina specifically to see Streisand's Return To Brooklyn concert.  We had cocktails and dip at my New York Branch, then walked around the corner to Restaurant Row to one of their favorite NY eateries for a fine Italian meal.

It is always fun to spend time with Jim, as he is a stimulating conversationalist.  He holds a special place in my memory of my graduate school days, as he directed me many times during the period (three times on campus, and once soon after my graduation) and also served as the chair of my MFA Advisory Committee. 
Jim occupies his retirement years by
writing theatre text books.

This group of three faculty members was in charge of overseeing my progress toward my degree, meeting at least once a semester to examine my growth as an actor and theatrical scholar. 

Oddly, now that I think of it, I was in charge of choosing my own committee, which seems quite illogical.  Back then, first year MFA candidates arrived on campus and were immediately required to choose their three-member committee, though we knew absolutely nothing about any of the faculty members.  I think they've since changed that routine.  Ah, USC, how eccentrically you were run...!

I lucked out with my three advisers. 

Roseanna shared the other half of the duplex I rented while at
USC. She knew after 10 minutes that I would get along with
Jim Patterson.  She was correct.
I received sage advice about picking my committee from my next door neighbor in Columbia, who was herself in the third year of her MFA in costume design.  She suggested I choose one faculty member with whom I was currently in class, and one member who was in a different discipline. 
My movement teacher sat on
my committee too. She lived
up to her name: Melody.

That turned out to be great advice. I invited the head of the costume design department to join my committee, and she was delighted, as she rarely had the opportunity to sit on an actor's committee. 
Lisa welcomed the chance to advise one
of the program's acting candidates.

I also took my neighbor's advice regarding the chair of my committee;  she recommended Jim Patterson, recognizing that we both had similar tastes and should get on well.  She was absolutely right.  When I approached Jim, whom I had only just met, he immediately accepted.  At the same time, he was casting his upcoming production of The Importance of Being Earnest, and unbeknownst to me, he already had me in mind to play Algernon.

Jim's production of The Importance of Being Earnest
was the highlight of my first year at USC. More on
that experience later.

Wow, I am surprised that these memories are coming back so vividly.  My dinner with Jim must have unlocked them.  I'm now thinking that this post will be the first of a series (similar to one I wrote a while ago regarding my experience with Waiver Theatre in Los Angeles, you can reach that series of entries here).  I sometimes think I may be writing my memoirs, bit by bit and out of order, in these pages;  if that is so, then my time at the University of South Carolina must take a prominent place. 

I bet I'll have some time to regurgitate my memories from grad school in the next weeks, as it appears I'll be (ahem) between engagements for a while.  We'll call this Episode One of the series entitled My Gamecock Diaries.  Stay tuned for the next installment.