Thursday, August 23, 2007

20 Questions With Patrick McHenry-Kroetch

Patrick (his "maiden" name was simply Kroetch, back 15 years ago before he married Heather and hyphenated his name) recently won Best Actor awards, of course, at the state, regional and national levels for his portrayal of John Wilkes Booth in the Civic's *Assassins.*
He's 38 and a native of the 'Kan, went to North Central High, caught the acting bug largely because of Tom Armitage there, and names the following shows as his favorites among the ones he's performed in here: Assassins, Peter Pan, Falsettoes, Noises Off and Nunsense Amen.

Bobo: What's in your CD player?
PMK: Stuff that my kids listen to [Madison and Logan are 13 and 9, respectively] — whatever's on the Zoo. I don't even know what most of that stuff is, but I like it.

What was your first theatrical experience?
Well, the first show I was in that was any good was *Jesus Christ Superstar,* back in '93. That was my first role. I had no training in singing at all. Then my second role at the Civic was as Tony in *West Side Story* in '94, with Troy [Nickerson] directing. They had not one but two singing coaches for me — put me in a room and worked hard with me.

Your first theatrical memory?
When I was 5, I saw *Annie, Get Your Gun* at the Civic, and I was just taken by the big spectacle of it all. But the main reason I got back into [acting] was Tom Armitage, in high school — I played Norman in *Star-Spangled Girl.* It was a big role, and I had never acted before. And then I did *Doll Shop* there, of course — that must've been in '87.

What books are you reading?
*The Kite Runner.* It's a book about this guy who's returning to Afghanistan ...
I just saw the trailer ...
They're making a movie of it? That's great. And I'm about 20 pages into a biography of Booth ...
I thought you'd be sick of him by now.
No, I love history.
Is it *Manhunt*?
Yeah, that's the one.

What's the best bit of acting advice you ever got?
"Be bigger."
You mean, in stage gestures?
No, emotionally. With movements as an actor, if you give me X, then usually you're told to rein it in. But I was told that by Troy. I like to stay in my comfort zone — if I think I'm being big, I'm usually not. But I don't mean the really big, wild hand motions. It's just that I do better if I go into places where I'm really uncomfortable. It's more at the beginning of rehearsals — [Troy] will tell me to keep on going ...

What's the most important thing you've changed your mind about?
(pauses) I'm sure there's something. I've always been very liberal. I was raised by semi-hippies who worked, still do, in the restaurant business. They still own Percy's Cafe Americana in the Valley and a place called the Bread Basket in the Shadle Center.

How do you balance marriage, kids, job [he works in advertising] and community theater?
I talk to my kids before every show. And my wife, to encourage me. I talk to them, and we make a decision as a group. I'll say, "This is going to take about three months, and I'm going to be really busy." I don't [the kids] make the decision, but I get them onboard with it. My kids need to become part of the experience. I want them to see that theater is good, that adults can still be artistic and be happy. I don't want them to think, "My dad did a lot of theater, and he was gone all the time." No, they read lines with me, they know my scripts — sometimes better than I do [laughs]."

What do non-theatergoers not understand about theater?
That there is truly something for everybody. Whether you go or not — you may not like musicals — I mean, I don't love _watching_ musicals ... I like straight plays or comedies. But friends of mine, people from my work, they'd come to, like, *Noises Off,* and they thought it was hysterical. They'd say, "I had no idea I could laugh that much."

In your opinion, what are the most underrated or least performed musicals and plays?
[laughs] *Assassins.* I mean, 11 years ago, Troy gave me a tape and said, "This is so cool. I'm thinking about doing it." And that went on for years.

You're at a dinner with a choreographer, set designer, costume designer and lighting designer whom you've never met before. What do you ask them?
Oh, I'm fascinated by lighting and sound. I could sit for hours and ask them, "How'd you come up with this?" Just fascinated. You're onstage and in rehearsal — but once you add lights, it's _theatrical_.
Brian Ritter, who designed the lights for *I Never Saw Another Butterfly* [the Holocaust drama at the Met and beyond] — once he added the lights, it was like another whole player in the show.

What are the scenes that always make you cry?
I cry a lot. [pause] Willie Loman. Definitely, if it's played well.

What's the audience behavior that drives you nuts?
I have no problem with the crazy laughing. I have no problem with coughing. But it's the talking — the little whispering. You think you're getting away with it, but you don't get away with it. We can hear everything ...

Puppies or kittens?

Who used to be your hero but isn't anymore?
You mean, I've soured on them? I don't know. I'll have to think about that.

I play with my kids. I like working out at the Spokane Club — I run and do the treadmill. And playing on the wee.
The _what_?
The Wii.
Oh. Like sports and stuff?
Yeah. Tennis, golf, bowling, throwing darts. And we box each other. And I jog and roller-blade. Technically, I golf and ski, but I only get out once or twice a year [to do them].

What do you notice about plays in performance that you wouldn't if you weren't an actor?
I admire and adore and respect my group of friends and my family.
Any favorite actors?
Jack Nicholson. Totally. Because of his acting ability and his fuck-you posturing.

What's a bad habit that you're trying to break?
None that I want to break. I smoke and drink and I don't have any problem with it.

What woman's role would you most like to play?
The mom in *Ruthless.* Either that or the Witch in *Into the Woods.*

It's not theater unless ...
[pauses, laughs] Unless there's an audience. For me personally, [it's not theater] unless you're with friends and having a good time. Before doing *Jesus Christ Superstar,* we were bored out of our minds. That's when Tom told us about Troy — he said, "There's this great new director in town." And Troy was a big deal because he was young, and not college-educated, not like the typical hot-shot directors. And so then we auditioned for Troy, who directed *JC Superstar.*

Which of your virtues are you proudest of?
My insistence that I'm always happy. I want happiness and friends. I'll leave a job, even if I'm making a good amount of money, if I'm not happy.


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