By Ben Rimalower
24 Aug 2013
There's a folder on my computer called "Patti LuPone Videos," but it's not a place where I organize my collection. It's a folder I created for documents pertaining to a show I was planning (in 2009) in which I was going to screen videos of Patti LuPone and talk about them, breaking down for the audience exactly why I loved them so much.
My logic at the time was that I was giving this away for free to anyone who came to my apartment, so I might as well make some money off it. I needed a new couch. Now, four years later, I've concluded a year-long run in my solo play, Patti Issues, which I am performing around the world while two-time Tony nominee Robin De Jesus replaces me (as me!) in the New York production. (And I got the couch!)
Originally, I didn't envision writing and performing a show so much as curating and hosting an evening. I began making notes, filling up the folder with lists of my favorite Patti videos, the videos I think best represent my experience of a life spent in adulation of La LuPone. I whittled the list down to a manageable length (the original list had 47 videos!) and devised a running order that served as a chronology of how these videos impacted my life.
For as long as I can remember, I've loved Patti LuPone and for as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be a writer. Loving Patti was easier. I began directing plays in high school, and soon I had a confidence as a director that made writing seem daunting by comparison. I always envisioned writing these epic vehicles for myself as director. It's insane to me that, with Patti Issues, I wound up writing a vehicle for myself as a performer. I used to quote Mary in Merrily We Roll Along, saying, "I only perform at dinner."
When I had the idea for the LuPone video evening, I e-mailed Patti to get permission to use some footage she had given me. Early in my directing career, assisting Lonny Price on Sweeney Todd with the New York Philharmonic, I realized a lifelong dream in becoming friends with Patti. Later I realized a lifelong nightmare when Patti threatened to sue me, at least implicitly, by having her lawyer demand I close my production of Leslie Kritzer is Patti LuPone at Les Mouches, a project to which she had originally given her blessing. This time around, I wanted explicit permission to use her proprietary material.Continued...