Tribute: Patrick Lee, theater journalist
Theater journalist Patrick Lee, creator of Just Shows To Go You and Theater Mania contributor, passed away this week at age 47. The news brought great sadness to many in the theater community, myself included. When I think of Patrick, I think of the beginning of my passion for theater writing. Patrick was the first person I met when I set out on this journey.
It was April 2009. I had just created Stage Rush and had been invited by Broadway producer and Producer’s Perspective creator Ken Davenport to attend a theater blogger meet up. It was at the Planet Hollywood in Times Square and I arrived with such a pit in my stomach, I almost turned away at the entrance. Starting this site, this endeavor, felt like a huge risk to me and I didn’t carry myself with much confidence about it. Ken’s invitation to meet up with real, live theater writers who were already established in the field was incredibly intimidating. Who was I to talk to them? Everything out of my mouth was sure to sound stupid. They’d surely laugh when I told them my site was hosted by Blogger.
I sat down at a table with a platter of nachos on it. I picked at it with one hand and dug the nails of my other hand into my leg as the bloggers began to arrive, everyone schmoozing. They all knew each other—damn.
And then Patrick plopped himself in a chair next to me. I turned my head to him with a jolt, as I knew some social interaction was inevitable. He smiled, introduced himself, and I instantly began to feel at ease. It might sound corny, but Patrick seemed so jolly. That’s really the word to describe how he was. He asked me about my blog and as I talked, he continued to ask follow-up questions. He wasn’t looking at me with disgust—he was interested! I told him I was so proud of myself, because I hadn’t even lived in New York for a year yet and I had already seen 40 shows. Patrick looked at me with a big smile and said, “I see over 200 a year!” But he wasn’t mocking me; he was laughing at the hilarity of it. We both had a big laugh. As we talked, we discovered that we both loved Spring Awakening, John Gallagher Jr., and Passing Strange. He told me that he had tickets to a screening of the Passing Strange movie and I pretty much wanted to gouge his eyes out, I was so jealous. I went home that night feeling more confident about my new project, all thanks to Patrick.
That theater blogger meet up lead to the formation of the Independent Theater Bloggers Association (ITBA), for which Patrick served as awards director. When the ITBA was deciding on nominations for this year’s awards, we met at a Hell’s Kitchen pub to discuss candidates. It was a Broadway nerd’s dream—sitting at a table with a group of people with the same interests, discussing who gave the year’s best performances and arguing about them. Patrick was so funny that day. He kept inserting his humorous, sarcastic opinion, then pulling back, because he was moderating the meeting and it was obvious that he was trying to be democratic.
But I am lucky that that was not my last meeting with Patrick. A few weeks ago, Patrick asked me if I would help him film the off-Broadway cast of The Kid reading the winners of this year’s ITBA Awards. We sat there at Theatre Row with Susan Blackwell and Ann Harada and Patrick just got along with them so well. I envied his ease and calming nature. After we filmed, we talked shop for a while outside the theater. He answered a lot of burning questions I had about the theater-writing field. I remember being so grateful to get that time with him. We shared laughs and had a really good time with that errand for the ITBA. We left that night saying we’d meet up for coffee soon, but we didn’t get the chance.
Patrick’s passing is a strong reminder to me that we all have to harness the joys of life while we still have it. Patrick loved theater and was passionate about LGBT rights. In his life, he made quite a mark in both worlds with his own theater site Just Shows To Go You, his bylines for Theater Mania and other sites, and by being a juror for the GLAAD Media Awards. Patrick is an example of following your passion—a lesson we all should learn from him.
On my Facebook homepage, there’s a notification that says “Patrick Lee has poked you. Poke back.” It’s from the night we first met. I never did “poke” him back. But I’m going to keep that message there as a reminder of what Patrick stood for. It just shows to go you the impact theater can have on a person’s life.