Backstage

Cinderella’s Patty Sullivan
December 24, 2008

Posted By: Patty Sullivan aka Forgetful the Fairy Godmother

“So, what’s it like?”
“Is it everything you thought it would be?”
“Are you loving it?”

These are the kinds of questions my friends have been asking me since being cast as ‘Forgetful’ the Fairy Godmother in “Cinderella”. And, to be honest, only one word can truly describe how it feels…. “surreal”. Every day, as I stand in the wings at the Elgin Theatre, I think to myself, “Am I really here?” “Is this a dream?” I mean, seriously! What am I doing here? I’m a children’s television host, on a public television network, and here I am surrounded by super-talented, seasoned, highly acclaimed actors from Stratford and Shaw. WHAA???

When we first started rehearsals, I would go home every night and tell my husband about all the amazing people I was working with. I watched everything they did, and tried to soak up as much of it as possible. I mean, I may never have this kind of opportunity again! (although my fingers are crossed) Working with the likes of Ted Dykstra, Tracey Flye, Dan Chameroy, Adam Brazier and Eddie Glen has been the most incredible experience. Paula Brancati and Jake Epstein are as sweet as they are talented. Karen LeBlanc, Laurie Murdoch and the rest of the cast are so multi-talented it makes me wish I never quit taking dance and music lessons as a kid! And of course, watching Ross Petty transform from producer extraordinaire to a… dare I say attractive?…evil stepmother every night is remarkable. And what has made this experience all the more satisfying is knowing that I have been able to contribute more than just my “name” to the show. Many people might not realize how much the entire cast (and crew!) contributes to the final product you see on the stage. We started with a full script, but then at each rehearsal, we were all encouraged to try new things… new lines of dialogue… make suggestions to the director & choreographer… all in an effort to get the best possible final product. And I think we did. It was — and still is — a real collaborative and friendly working environment. I cannot tell you how great I felt when Ted (Dykstra) said to me “That’s a great idea Patty”. Wow. Maybe I do fit in here after all.

Sure, I have always loved performing. I did all the dance recitals as a kid, auditioned for all the high school plays, even went to theatre school in the summer and performed at Hamilton Place (with the now very successful stage actors George Masswohl and Sharon Matthews). But, like Cinderella, I was raised to be “practical” and, even though I always had the itch to perform, there was always a voice in my head saying “Get a job with some security” (that voice sounded a lot like my Dad’s). Not that there is any real security in any job anymore, but I digress.
So, I set my sights on being a veterinarian. But after my first experience at a vet’s office putting an animal to ‘sleep’, I knew I couldn’t do that for a living! And since the voice inside still nagged at me I thought — what can I do that still involves perfoming, but might give me more security? And that’s how I ended up taking broadcasting. Ironically though, it wasn’t my schooling that got me the job as a children’s host… it was my performing abilities. Perhaps I was always supposed to perform and fate just stepped in?

But the one thing television didn’t give me was the “rush” of performing for a live audience, getting that immediate response, knowing you’ve connected with people and given them an emotional experience. So, I got involved with community theatre groups around the G.T.A. I have had some wonderful experiences and have made life-long friends. But community theatre actors don’t get paid to perform. We do it because we love it. And I know, when “Cinderella” is done, I’ll be right back out there doing shows in my community, just for fun. But, I have to say, to actually get paid to perform this time? That has also been a real thrill!

I won’t say this hasn’t been a challenge. It has. In addition to doing this show, I was also continuing to work at CBC, shooting my pre-school morning show Kids’ CBC. I had many days when I would be in studio at 8am, shoot all day, then go to rehearsal in the evening… or shoot in the morning, rehearse in the afternoon and do a performance in the evening! Absolutely exhausting. Nuts. Crazy. And yet, I don’t regret a minute of it — except for all the the time I missed with my wonderful husband, sweet little daughter and 2 big goofy dogs. (I owe them all big-time!)

Now here I am, on Christmas Eve day, over half-way through our run, and I am still in awe of everyone around me. When this is done, I will return to my “regular” job, and I’ll get to spend time with my family again. But these men and women will continue to do shows and entertain the masses, working crazy hours and missing their families, they’ll keep performing through sicknesses and injuries, all for the love of the theatre. I will miss performing with them. I will miss watching Dan and Adam making each other laugh on stage. (**sidenote — another highlight for me was when I actually made THEM laugh on stage!). I will miss seeing Karen rock “Midnight Hour”, and watching Jake do “Elvis”, and hearing Paula’s “warm up”. I will miss Laurie’s wisecracks, Crox’s ‘Heatwave’, and the twinkle Eddie gets in his eye as soon as he sets foot on stage. I will miss watching the ensemble dance, secretly wishing I was dancing with them. I will miss the smiles and encouragement I get every day from every person involved in the show. And yes, I will even miss Ross’ adlibs with the audience!

My dream to perform on the “big stage” came true and it has been a truly magical experience. Thanks to this amazing group of people, the cast and crew of “Cinderella, The Sillylicious Family Musical”, I have wonderful memories to last a lifetime.
I hope to see you all again someday.

Offstage or on? I’ll leave that up to fate.
Keep Dreaming
Patty