Monday, June 4, 2012

Planet Connections Interview - Patrick Burns of "From Foster Care to Fabulous"

By Byrne Harrison
Photo credits: Carla Barnett (headshot), Raymond Liu (“Foster Care” promo)

Patrick Burns is an actor, playwright, and musical director. Currently the Assistant Conductor on the national tour of “Spamalot,” he most recently appeared as Walter Harper in “The Music of Denali” for Princess Cruises and Lucas in the Los Angeles production of “Bare: A Pop Opera” at the Hudson Theatre. Off Broadway: “Still Life at the Golden Age” (Bart Hagen); Other Favorite Roles: “You're A Good Man Charlie Brown” (Schroeder), “Ubu Roi” (Pa Ubu), “Seussical” (Yertle/Deaf Who), “Bat Boy the Musical” (Ned/Clem), “As You Like It” (Silvius), “Twelfth Night” (Curio/Priest), “Much Ado About Nothing” (Friar Frances) and spending three years on UCI's premiere improv troupe: “Live Nude People” (With Clothes On).  He has appeared in numerous cabarets throughout New York and Los Angeles and is also the writer and star of the original one-man-musical, “From Foster Care to Fabulous,” currently part of the Planet Connections festival.

How did you first get involved in theatre?

My debut acting performance was as Friar Laurence in our eighth grade production of “Romeo and Juliet.” Oddly enough, I went on to play three other Shakespearean priests before the age of twenty-one. I remember we were using a version of the script that had been watered down for middle-school kids and I asked the director if I could spice up the text to make it more fun and applicable to our cast.  I added bizarre jokes, slang and pop culture references that probably meant nothing to our parents in the audience, but the kids in the show sure had a good time. I even wrote a bunch of underscoring that they played underneath the scenes. My other three priests were considerably less zany.

Who are your biggest influences?

My whole life I’ve been so very lucky to have the best mentors I could wish for. Just when I thought my lack of resources would land me in a dead end, there was always a teacher, mentor or employer who saw something special in me and helped me out. Whether it was bartering voice lessons for babysitting or taking me as an assistant on a job where I would learn valuable skills and life lessons, someone was always looking out for me. Those are the influences that have helped me get where I am today and I can’t begin to express my gratitude.

What is your show about?

Between the ages of 14 and 17, I lived with four foster families in Oakland, CA. This self-written, self-performed musical details my experience with both original and well-known songs, a plethora of jaw-dropping and side-splitting anecdotes, and a bizarre cast of horrific, hilarious, and ultimately heartbreaking characters.

What inspired you to write it?

When I was a student at UC Irvine, I was surprised by the general ignorance of foster care. I would talk about my experiences or tell crazy stories and people were shocked and confused. Some people laughed, some cried and some people did both. Whatever reaction they had, they always told me, “You should make your experiences into a play.” So, I did. 

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?

I’ve worked with many collaborators on this project over the years and the show definitely benefits from having been shaped by a variety of different creative and critical opinions. It’s my first time working with each member of the team we’ve put together for the Planet Connections Festivity production, but I must say each and every one of them is on top of their game and I can’t wait to start rehearsals and see what we come up with. 

Why was it important to you to be part of an eco-friendly theatre festival?

This earth is so awesome. I’m always trying to think of ways to live greener and it’s exciting to be a part of a festival that does the same. If there is a green way to do it, why not do it the green way? 

Planet Connections donates a portion of the box office for each show to a charity.  What charity has your production chosen and why?

We’re working with the Children’s Aid Society, an organization that provides adoption, foster care, health, and education services to underserved children and families in New York City.  We chose to work with them because they are exactly aligned with the subject matter of the show. This is show is a personal account of coming of age in foster care and the youth that the Children’s Aid Society work with are doing just that.

What's next for you after Planet Connections?

I recently wrote the score to a new musical called “Madwomen.”  The UCI Festival of New Musicals produced a reading a few months ago and the Academy for New Musical Theatre will be producing another reading this August in Los Angeles.  I’m going to be in LA for the reading. I was unable to attend the previous reading since I was out on the North American Tour of “Spamalot,” so I’m excited to give the project more of my attention this time around.

If you could work with any famous actor, living or dead, who would it be?

My ultimate dream for “From Foster Care to Fabulous” is to do the show in repertory with “Elaine Stritch at Liberty.” Maybe Elaine and I could even swap roles for a performance or two? Now, that would be something.

To find out more about Patrick and "From Foster Care to Fabulous" visit these sites:

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