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Alums Pitch in as Dan Patterson Directs His Last Play at Keene State

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Four of the KSC alums in Light Up the Sky (l–r): Emily Dixon ’10, Brendan Denehy ’84, PJ Cooke ’84, and Mia Moravis ’81
Four of the KSC alums in Light Up the Sky (l–r): Emily Dixon ’10, Brendan Denehy ’84, PJ Cooke ’84, and Mia Moravis ’81

Theatre and Dance Professor Dan Patterson will be retiring in May, so the play that was performed earlier this month—Moss Hart’s Light Up The Sky—was the last one he’ll direct here. In keeping with Keene State’s—and especially Theatre and Dance’s—tradition of the warm bonds of community, six alums stepped up to participate in Prof. Patterson’s grand finale: Brendan Denehy ’84, Mia Moravis ’81, and Pamela Jo Cooke ’84 were actors; Emily Dickson ’10 was the scenic designer; Mary Robarge ’98 was the costumer; and Jacque Bilodeau ’89, owner of Salon Jacque in Brattleboro, Vt., brought her entire staff to the Redfern to create the actresses’ extravagant 1940s-era hairstyles.

“Having these folks come back to do this show with me was very heart-warming,” Prof. Patterson said. “It felt like a family reunion. The fact that they contacted me and asked if they could be a part of the final show was very touching. It made me feel a kind of validation for all my work. The real point of teaching is hoping that you will touch someone’s life in a way that will help them to find their way in the world. I love seeing my students making good lives in their art as well as their own special worlds. As a teacher, you gain new children every year, but you also lose them every year. That can have an impermanence to it until you realize that they are still out there and they are still thinking of you and the things they learned from you. I suppose it gives you a bit of a sense of immortality.”

Does Prof. Patterson remember these alums? “Mia played Antigone in Edith Notman’s production in Drennan Auditorium before we moved to the new Arts Center. She also appeared in The Threepenny Opera, which was our first show in the new building. PJ (Pamela Jo) was in my production of Terra Nova, which was invited to perform at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. She was also in my production of Absurd Person Singular. Brendan was in my production of Detours, which was a series of short science fiction plays. He was also in my 1984 production of Light Up the Sky as Tyler Rayburn. Brendan was also in that production of Absurd Person Singular with PJ. Jacque was in my production of Noises Off. Emily was on the Tech side of things and worked on a number of my shows while she was here.”

But Prof. Patterson isn’t giving up the stage just yet. “Doing my final show is sad,” he continued. “I didn’t think it would be. I thought it would be a kind of relief, and in many ways it is that. But it made me feel the sense of something ending. Something that I have given more than half my life to. A place that I am leaving. A place that I called my home and where I lived and worked and played. Of course, there is the excitement of beginning again. I have a sense that I’m entering a new phase in my life—a new creative phase. I have been doing more acting in the past few years, and mostly with theatre companies outside of the college. I have developed some very good friends and relationships in places other than just the campus. I hope that I will be able to move forward as an actor and an artist. I certainly am not going to stop doing theatre. I’m just moving my shop.”

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