Friday, June 11, 2010

In Memoriam: Patrick Lee (1959-2010)

It would seem you have stumbled upon a rare post on a neglected blog. This blog started in 2005 and through the last 5 years, in spits and spurts, I’ve posted my thoughts and musings about theatre, film and life. Writing for my blog is a beloved hobby. It started around the time I was writing the screenplay Harvest Home and, over the years, has morphed into a blog that is primarily theatre-centric.

I love theatre. I love it hard and I love it true. I’ve said it several times in my life and I will say it several more: it has been my one true constant, ever since I toddled around backstage during shows my father directed. Theatre never disappoints. She entertains, she educates, she energizes. She is most definitely the jealous mistress in my life and she will always beckon.

Not many people feel the way I do about theatre. But I’ve been lucky in my life to find a few. Several of them are bloggers themselves and are included in the “Bloggers You’ll Learn To Love” list to the right. I’ve met most of these passionate and intelligent theatre addicts and my appreciation for this glorious art has undoubtedly been made richer by reading their blogs.

Someone who has been included on this list for quite some time is Patrick Lee who, among other things, was the author of the blog Just Shows To Go You. On Wednesday afternoon, a mutual friend and fellow blogger posted a link on his Facebook page, informing us that Patrick had unexpectedly passed away at the age of 51. Through the magic of social networking, it did not take too long to realize just how many lives Patrick touched.

My only face-to-face meeting with Patrick was at a bloggers brunch at Angus McIndoe in March 2008. For the majority of the brunch he was seated at the other end of the table. However, before dashing off to a matinee of Passing Strange, he came to our end of the table and introduced himself. We chatted briefly about Show Showdown, our blogs, Taboo and Passing Strange, for which he had a great enthusiasm. That afternoon, I was off to see Lit and Messy and Not At All Ashamed at NYU, a concert featuring the music of my composer friend Joe Iconis. At the time, he hadn’t heard of Joe (also a Passing Strange fan, BTW) but soon thereafter he became a big fan and supporter of Joe’s work.

Following that brunch, I started reading Patrick’s blog. I would also read his reviews on Theatermania, became Facebook friends with him and followed him on Twitter. I knew him virtually, as so many of us did. It did not take long for me to realize what a gift to the theatre community he was. Most definitely, Patrick was a champion of new and original theatre as evidenced by his love of [title of show], Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, The Amoralists, Joe Iconis and more. We are so fortunate, to have an online legacy of Patrick, where we can Google his reviews, interviews and musings to our heart’s content.

I am lucky to also have a tangible reminder of Patrick. When Equus returned to Broadway, I won, via a Just Shows To Go You contest, a Playbill that had been autographed by the entire cast of said revival. Little did Patrick know, Equus was an instrumental part of my theatrical development, so it was a thrill to own such a meaningful piece of memorabilia. While I don’t know for certain, I am going to presume that Equus was one of Patrick’s favorites as well, since the original logo is the first tile on the banner affixed to the top of his blog. Ironically, one of Patrick's last published articles on Theatermania is an interview with Sam Underwood, who is playing Alan Strang in Tony Walton's production of Equus in East Hampton. From this day forward, whenever I look at that Playbill, I will think of Patrick.

It is always very hard, when someone passes away suddenly and unexpectedly, to make sense of it. I barely knew Patrick and I instantly became immersed in thoughts of his life, his family, his close friends and his colleagues. If I’m so deeply affected, how do those closest to him make sense of it? Then I think to myself, how wonderful it is that Patrick was a writer! How wonderful that so many of his friends are writers! As Patrick’s family and friends gather this weekend to memorialize him, they need only turn to the blogosphere for comfort. The online eulogies that have been cropping up on the internet are numerous, several of them by the bloggers listed to the right. In them, Patrick is remembered as an intelligent, passionate, sarcastic, inspiring, jovial, caring, witty, kind and much loved person. Most of us can only aspire to be remembered so fondly.

In whichever way great or small Patrick Lee may have touched your life, I think we can all agree we are better for having known him and for having known the work that he loved so dearly.

We have learned that Patrick had a heart attack and passed away quietly in his sleep. While nobody knows for certain what happened, I like to think that Patrick enjoyed a nice glass of wine, posted his interview with Joe Colarco about Burnt Part Boys, climbed into bed thinking about his predictions for the upcoming Tony Awards and then drifted off to his final sleep dreaming about the theatre, something he loved hard and that he loved true. A love that, thankfully, he shared with so many.