Schroon Laker: What does that mean to be a stewards of the amphitheater?
Patrick: The Department of Environmental Conservation, (The DEC) has what is called an Adopt a Natural Resource Program. If a private entity -- ADK Shakes is private but charitable, 501(c)(3), -- finds a piece of state-owned property that it believes it could adopt and use, they can basically take over the management of it from the state.
The state continues to hold the title in that piece of property, but this private entity begins the management of it. It's a public, private partnership with state-owned resources, in our case, it's a beautiful stone amphitheater on a very old piece of land which is maybe, I don't know, 150 yards from the water. It's perfectly positioned and an absolutely beautiful spot that the state did not know was there.
I guess I started trying to get in touch with them in 2003 when I graduated from my undergraduate school. I guess it was 2007 before I finally got through the bureaucracy to figure out who exactly would be the right person to talk to about that place because at that time it was not open to the public at all. It was just a gate across the front of it.
Schroon Laker: You mean the entire grounds?
Patrick: Completely closed. Up until 2009 I believe or maybe 2008. Completely closed. They only opened it a few years later for day use. They hadn't yet figured out if they're going to have a lifeguard in there for the beach and so forth. It was open for day use. You've been through it ... its huge, massive grounds, beautiful trails, you're going to snowmobile in there, lots of space to walk. There used to be a nine-hole golf course.
The state owned it and had just put a bar up off the road. People would park and lock in or beach their boats and just come in to the land by boat, but there were no state employees there, no rangers, no anybody. So it was fairly low.
Schroon Laker: Was the grass cut at all back then, the lawn?
Patrick: No. Pretty much everything was overgrown. At the time ids, teenagers, maybe young adults, whoever would sneak in there. They would build bonfires…. there's broken glass up here, bottles, liquor bottles everywhere, graffiti allover the place. Then at the beach, it's trash and that sort of thing.
At the time, they (NYS) knew that they have this piece of land and they wanted to do something with it but they had no idea what it was and they had no idea, like many residents, long time residents of this place have no idea that there is an amphitheater in there built in the 1930s and modeled on the Hollywood Bowl.
I've only just begun to crack what that amphitheater used to look like in its hay day. I would love to get more pictures because the area around that circular stone thing in the center, that was a pivot for a rotating stage and the area around it was a fountain. That was filled with water and fountains could shoot up on either side of your set.
Schroon Laker: A rotating stage?
Patrick: Yup. You can still see some of the piping work in there and I was always skeptical. I was like, "Maybe there were pipes covering electric lines or something." We finally found a photo where you can see the water sparking in there. It was definitely water. We discovered the architects name was Anton Bergdolt.
Schroon Laker: What else did he do?
Patrick: I honestly, I don't know. He was German and returned to Germany some time after the war. But his grandson got in touch with me shortly after we got the word out that we've been appointed stewards of that space. His grandson is a guy named Bob Peters.
Schroon Laker: Does he have access to his grandfather's collections of blueprints?
Patrick: He sent me some photos. I'm not sure what other stuff he has but he has sent me a disk of photos of Anton standing up at the top of the hill where the thing behind in the space is so big. You can only see a certain level of detail in that shot, but that's great because it's contemporaneous with the space over up to 1938.
Then some other pictures of it in its prime and then a series of the more, that melancholy period where Anton came back from Germany at some point once in the 70's and once in the 80's and visited that spot and it's overgrown, band shells turned over and rotting away.
The good news is I put that place on the state's radar by telling them that I wanted to do something in it. We used to cross-country ski through there in the winter time and it was one of my favorite places that I knew of in the world. I'm sure that at least that’s space is partially responsible for my love of theaters and a desire to act and figure out what this weird human thing called theater is and what it feels like.
I wanted to do something in there. There is broken concrete and rebar sticking up, rusty plants growing in. So I figured it wasn't really safe enough to bring an audience in there and I wanted to make a movie and say, "Let me bring some cameras in here. I'll get actors and we'll have insurance and we'll make a movie of something in here and then we can get the video of that out to the world."
That was a hard sell with a bunch of bureaucrats in different parts of the state that had no idea what it look like or what it feels like, what sort of place it once was and could be again. So that was a long road that took months and months and months.
Schroon Laker: Was that movie made?
Patrick: No. I was going to make a movie of Macbeth in there because it's so cool and spooky .I figured that a year would be enough time to figure out the permitting, but I underestimated the force and power, the inertia of New York state bureaucracy.
Because the couple of folks that I was in touch with, some of them were more helpful than others, but people were sending messages back and forth to each other and every time I talk with one, it was basically like we were having the conversation for the first time again.
I wanted to shoot some Macbeth, I wanted to shoot it in the autumn. I thought with the leaves changing and everything else, it would be really spectacular. By the time we got to the beginning of summer, it was basically get your insurance squared away and these are the forms you'll fill out to get the sorts of permits you'll need and you should be okay.
The summer went and I did those things and I sent them through . This was 2007 and I didn't hear anything from anybody, but I had the cast lined up and get ready to go. I had the crew lined up and ready to go. I had all the equipment, all the stuff that a company is making. This was going to be a low budget guerrilla project, but still a full length video adaptation of Macbeth.
Schroon Laker: This was before ADK Shakes was officially formed?
Patrick: Yeah, before there was an Adirondack Shakespeare Company before Tara and I had ever produced anything as a theater company, my background is in film, so that was my first thought was that we want to restore this space. The first thing is letting people know that it exists because they just don't know that it's here.
The woods have grown up around it and if you come, you're either beaching your boat and staying there or parking at the road and walking down and you're walking right passed it. You never even know that that still happens with the way they've got the place laid out.
Summer came and went and I had ... You are familiar with this moment. You line up all of these resources and there comes a moment where it's one thing to plan to acquire them and actually commit people and ...
Schroon Laker: Pull the trigger?.
Patrick: Right. We were at the trigger pulling stage. I had not yet pulled the triggered but everything was in place and I didn't want to pull the trigger without my permit in my hand.
Now, we're in August and I get in touch with the same person and it's basically we're having the same conversation again that we were having in May and then again June. And I said, "Well I need to know right now. What is the story, what it's going to take for me to get this permit because I cannot pull the trigger without it."
And the best case scenario at that point was the regulatory required amount of time for them to process the permit application would mean that if there were no speed bumps to speak of in the process that I would get the permit the week that I wanted to start shooting.
I pushed it. I didn't pull the trigger, I said, "I can't take that chance. I know more information now, I have more contacts, let's look at next year." What all of that did was get the space on the state's radar from what I described it to them as.
They sent some state archaeologists in there and started looking around and realized that what they had was this historic spot that statutorily they're not going to be allowed to do anything with if it is eligible to be on the list of state of historic places. They have to treat is as such.
They cleaned it up. They took a lot of that concrete. It's not clean, but compared with what it was. They took all the concrete out of there. They broke some of the older stuff down and removed that. They cut back a lot of where the woods were growing in and started to really maintain the grounds in there.
They painted over some of the worst graffiti that's in the area and when I showed up the next summer ... I didn't get up here until in 2008. I was hired by the Texas Shakespeare Festival to go down to Texas and act for a long season. That got in the way of doing Macbeth the next year.
But when I got back up here in August o 2008, I walked in there and I said, "Well, we solved one problem now this place is clean enough for an audience." Which is why in 2009 we got Adirondack Shakespeare Company in there for the very first time.
Schroon Laker: As you are trying to re-open the amphitheater, did that play a role in the creation of ADK Shakes ?
Patrick: They were on parallel tracks on the outset, but they very quickly came hurdling together once the space was cleaned up enough for an audience to go in there. The other thing that was happening while all that was going on, the part of my background that wants to go and make movies was that I was just gigging as an actor and a singer all around in the country.
I met Tara doing that by coincidence. We were hired in two shows back to back in very different parts of the region we're in, the Philadelphia region. One way out in Central Pennsylvania and another that toured allover the city ...
Schroon Laker: Are these traveling Broadway shows or ...
Patrick: The one was a group called the First Stage Children's Theater that was doing a production of our town and the other was the Harrisburg Shakespeare Festival.
Schroon Laker: Who is on which?
Patrick: We both got hired in both which is kind of extreme.
Schroon Laker: So fate stepped in there. You're right.
Patrick: Exactly. It would be one thing. We meet a lot of actors that you like in one show and then you like see them, like a couple of years later you run into them again. It's a small world. But to just without referring each other for the jobs or anything to both be hired for both shows concurrently was very strange and we ended carpooling and got to know each other that way.
Then once you know actors, then you start recommending people. You hear about an opening here and you say, "I know somebody that could do that job." And so forth, you work together more. But Tara was getting too, so we're sort of you go around wherever the job takes you.
Even when we were doing great work, there was always something about it that felt like it was being held back. So even when you have a really good experience, you run up against something somewhere in the process where you say, "Oh, but if we just couldn't ... If we could get pass to that thing. If we didn't have to deal with this thing."
Usually, what we found out, the generic complaint that we could apply broadly was that with very talented actors, very talented directors, very talented storytellers, we're all making the same mistake which is that they're trying to do these classic works; usually Shakespeare that was our specialty, but really just about anything. We are talking about that is in the classical vein, so it gets done regularly over time by different people.
There's this pressure that people feel to put their spin on it. Which is to say, "It's not enough ... The world has seen Hamlet, so what is my Hamlet look like?" Then once the placement around for 400 years and it gets done a lot, the ways that you can put your spin on it get more and more outlandish.
You have Hamlet in Nazi Germany, Hamlet in the Old West, Hamlet in space, you get these crazy concepts. I picked three concepts none of which I have seen applied to Hamlet but all of which I've seen applied to something by Shakespeare.
I don't want to point fingers because I know a lot of great people doing great work even with concepts, but what we saw as the general rule was that these concepts ultimately takeover the conversation and you end up having to mess with the play in order to fit it into your concept.
Now you're making cuts, sometimes you're adding language in, you're changing things, the character relationships and behaviors in order to serve your concept when you have works by the greatest dramatist certainly in English of all time.
Even as a practitioner of the work over and over and over again, you never feel like you've had a clean trip through the play to just know what is the play. I know what this concept of the play is but I still don't feel connected to the play itself.
We just wanted to see what would happen if we freed the place from concepts completely. That end pragmatic need to streamline resources ...
Schroon Laker: And budgets?
Patrick: Exactly. Got us to a minimalist take on all of these things. If you know Aristotle at all. Aristotle lists the aspects of theater. There are six, the most important to the first two ... He ranks them in order, but the most important to our plot and character, Aristotle emerges from the plot, what is a character or the character is what the character does.
That's how you know that Hamlet is indecisive. That's a fair assertion to make about Hamlet but you know that because of the fact that he won't kill the murder until he has more proof. You know this because of the things that occur in the plot.
The last thing that Aristotle ranks on the elements of drama is spectacle.
Schroon Laker: Really? The least thing, the least important?
Patrick: The least important thing. If you ever catch ... If I ever catch somebody that leaves in Adirondack Shakespeare Company Production and someone asked them how they liked it and they say, "The costumes were beautiful. I will know that that show was a failure." Because the costumes were beautiful is a critique that you want to make of a gallery exhibition whose purpose is the spectacle.
Theater drama is not about that. The spectacle is incidental to the things that are happening on the stage whose principal purpose should be to move you. I have a huge productions, major productions get bogged down in spectacle so that ...
Schroon Laker: Lighting, costuming, props, whatever.
Patrick: Yeah. Some shows are simply spectacular. The Follies for example are just that type of show. Aristotle would not write a good review of anybody's Follies no matter how good they were from a dramatic perspective. You would say, "Yes it was fun and it was diverting but it did not have a moving effect on me, a profound effect on me as a human being."
Schroon Laker: So fast forward, how many productions has ADK Shakes done at Scaroon Manor over the years now?
Patrick: In 2009, we got our permit to get in there, too late to mount a main stage show. We had to do a variety hour of scenes and songs and so forth. But I'll count that as one. In 2010, we couldn't get in there because they at first did not budget money to open it for the season.
They changed their mind about that in June just before the July 4th holiday and they opened for July. But too late for us to get in there, so we had our first summer season in the Schroon Lake Park and the Boat House, the band stand.
We had one in there in 2009 and 2011 Midsummer Night's Dream, Merchant of Venice, Complete Works Abridged and a children show, a [few 00:32:43] season of Minotaur. 2012, Hercules, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, and then last year, Celtic fairy tales. That's ten full productions and we'll have another six this summer.
Schroon Laker: If by chance you came across millions of dollars, can you go to New York State and say, "We'd like to bring Scaroon Manor back to its former glory with your permission and your architects and archaeologists
Patrick: I need to have a conversation with Gary West at DEC Region 5 about exactly how that works, but what I know from the stewardship agreement without getting too far into detail is as long as we worked with their approval and were doing a restoration in the vein of the original architecture, then we could put that thing right back to how it was when Jane Kelly and Natalie were in there for Marjorie Morningstar.
The first step is seats. It would be great to get seats in there. It would be great to get lights in. We just want some basic stuff to basically get enough light for us to be in there after the sun goes down. Because as it is, we're limited to the full run of a play. We have to work back from sun down.
Schroon Laker: You got to be out before it gets dark?