Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin Talk “Mediocre” Theater and Why They Get On Stage

For An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, the two stars take songs from their repertoire to weave together a story for their concert audience. The two recently spoke with The New York Times about their friendship, but also about Broadway, actors, and even the consumer.

When LuPone was asked about the standard she holds other actors to, she says, “It’s always about the audience. I mean, I’m mad when I come out of a theater, and it’s mediocre, and I’ve spent over 300 bucks. I’m furious. It’s a higher-stake game now, and everybody has to be on top of their game. And you can’t have anybody go out there and dis the play, dis the playwright, dis the audience — you can’t. It’s unacceptable.”

Patinkin on the other hand is more critical of the writers, “When you can’t learn the lines or there’s a problem, continually, with the scene, something’s wrong. It’s not just that I’m having a bad day. The great people that I’ve worked with, like Steve Sondheim, when we were doing ‘Sunday in the Park,’ when he’s getting ready to write that part, and you’ve been doing the workshop, he wants to know: What are you thinking? And you have a long, two-, three-hour conversation. And then the next two, three days later, comes this poem set to music, that was part of your conversation. The lesser-gifted folk are not so open to your thoughts.”  In regard to why people act, LuPone feels it’s different for everyone: “People get onstage for different reasons. I think Mandy and I are old-fashioned. We want to get onstage because we want to tell a story. And with that comes a great passion, a great desire, a great drive to mix it up.”

When asked if the two would like to appear in future Broadway musicals, both feel like there’s resistance from the audience as LuPone says, “I think that the playwrights are out there, and I think the producers are out there. It’s just a question of economics and support.” Patinkin adds, “And I would just suggest to the consumer to be more experimental and have more daring. Patti and I weren’t famous when we were cast in ‘Evita.’ We were nobody, we were kids. And now you can’t do a show unless there’s at least one name. And that wasn’t how it worked for us. And it’s wrong. You cast who’s right. You put the people who are right there. You make the piece right, and if it’s good, they’ll come.”  

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