This week, in honor of Tut’Zanni’s upcoming opening of BEEP AND BOP this Friday at the San Francisco Fringe, we continue with our series of alumni interviews! Read on to learn all about ADA alumnus and Tut’Zanni member, Patrick Berger!
What did you study there?
I was in the Commedia dell’Arte program.
What University were you coming from?
I was coming from the University of Pittsburgh and I was a sophomore. Fun fact: I was not the youngest in our group.
What was your favorite thing about the program?
At the time, there were only 18 students there. 4 full year and 14 for the semester. It was extremely intimate. I loved how we became a community of creators. We all became aware of each other’s physical aesthetics: the tempo and tone of each individual both in space and behind a mask.
Can you share a favorite memory or story from your time in Italy outside the classroom?
There are so many favorites. It was my first time out of the country on my own and I wanted to see everything in Italy. I became obsessed with the place and people and food. So every weekend I would take a trip. This was grueling and crazy – but I loved it. My favorite weekend adventure was with Ali Landvatter. We decided, last minute, we wanted to go check out the Olympics in Torino. So we took a train to a train to a bus to a bus. And ended up on a mountain watching ski jumping and racing over a fence. We were too poor to buy tickets. For some reason we didn’t realize it would be crazy cold so we only had hoodies with us. And to top it off, we were too poor to rent a room so we had to sleep in the main train station. It was an adventure. I ended up sleeping in a lot of weird places in Italy.
Do you have any “must sees” while in Arezzo? A Favorite Gelato spot, restaurant, historical/cultural landmark?
Hmm. It has been a while. I came to really love the Saturday market and the walk to Pam, the grocery store. Both random but full of memories.
What were some of the biggest “takeaways” from your time at the Accademia?
So many important takeaways, both as an artist and a human. But my favorite was the idea generosity on stage. Take the audience with you. Don’t shut them out. Allow them to be in on the journey.
What have you been up to since the Accademia?
I finished college and moved to NYC. And there are two things that I want to mention in NYC. Since I got to NYC, I have been working with Theatre Development Fund an organization that is all about accessibility and the arts – which I love. And the other is Tut’Zanni Theatre Company. This amazing Commedia dell’Arte troupe was created by 2 ADA alums (Dory and Ali) and includes 4 more of us from the same year (Allegra, Liam, Molly and I). We continue to play but we are also interested in figuring out what our Commedia is, which has manifested as creating more modern archetypes and playing with more modern situations.
Do you stay in touch with anyone from your class?
Well – those 5 others in Tut’Zanni especially – but I run into classmates all the time. I live in NYC so people are on their way through all the time.
Tell us more about why you decided to join Tut’Zanni. How has your role developed within the group?
It’s funny. When Ali brought the idea to me, I agreed to it not knowing what would ever become of it. I have been involved in so many theatrical start-ups and most of them have fizzled after the first show. I had no idea what would happen. Now, five years later, working on our fourth show, writing about our process, teaching workshops – I feel like I fell down a rabbit hole with Ali and didn’t really make a choice but followed a white rabbit out of curiosity.
What are you excited about most with BEEP & BOP? Why is this project so important? When and where can people see it?
I am terrified of this show. It has only 2 people onstage. And is both more abstract and less abstract than our other work. I really like the characters we found. These two have constructed their own world within our world (which I think happens often, but we don’t recognize it often), and they are taking the audiences on, in literal terms, a tour of their existence. We hope that this piece can open up our audience’s hearts, a bit.
BEEP & BOP will be in the San Francisco Fringe Festival starting this Friday the 16th. Get your tickets here.
What is your favorite Tut’Zanni moment?
My favorite moment. That’s hard. I think one of my favorites was when we were doing a tour of Arkansas, Mississippi and South Carolina – we were staying in this giant beautiful house on the MUW campus and we all (because this is who we are) decided to pile into this giant tub and take a hilarious photo. I guess my favorite moments are always when we are together and able to relax and have fun. Often that is outside the rehearsal room but when it falls into the rehearsal space, then it is pure magic.
Do you have a clip you can share or link to?
Well, the easiest is Tut’Zanni’s website – you can find a lot of good stuff there.
How has the Accademia helped shape who you are as a artist/creator?
The Accademia came into my life when I was at a crossroads. Was I to become a pharmacist or pursue the arts? I pursued the arts and even though I always knew that is what I wanted, the Accademia gave me the confidence and skills to say, now is the time to take my future into my hands.
What would your advice be for people considering attending the Accademia?
I came into my Accademia experience with a very open mind and heart. I was ready to step outside my comfort zone and be challenged. I wanted to get a lot out of the experience, so I did. I made sure I did. I think with everything in life, you make of it what you want. I had to take a leap in order to find what I needed. So, I guess my best bit of advice is – follow your gut. Mine knew, so I went and I found a whole new world. Yours knows as well.
In your opinion who is a good candidate to get a lot out of the program?
That is a tough question. I feel like anyone can get a lot out of the program. I feel like a good candidate is willing to take the leap with an open mind and heart.
If you could only play one Commedia character for your entire life, which one would it be?
If I was (stuck) in a single mask for my whole life… whoa. I would not be good at that. BUT, if I had to pick, probably Arlecchino. He scares the crap out of me, but I also have a lot of fun with him.