Charles Messina & Patrick Terance McGowan

Charles MessinaOn October 15, 2010, I had the privilege of sitting down with playwright Charles Messina and actor Patrick Terance McGowan after seeing Patrick perform Charles' "Bye, George" as part of the 2010 Shortened Attention Span Horror Festival. "Bye, George" is an homage to world-renowned comic George Carlin in which Patrick portrayed Carlin perfectly from his outfit to his voice to his comedic genius!

Patrick Terance McGowan performance crosses many genres: film, TV, and theatre. His numerous film and television credits include the shorts "Beaster," "The Golden Egg," "As A Cloud," "Wilderness," "Raimo's Price," "Facing the Wave," and the forthcoming "Choose" and "Pacing the Cage," full length feature films "An End Game," "Don't Burn," and "The Prospects," and television's "Uncle Morty's Dub Shack" and "The Wisdom Tree." In addition to "Bye, George," theatre audiences have seen Patrick in "Men Without Myth" and "Small Craft Warnings." Patrick is currently gearing up for his next performance, so stay tuned to "Adaumbelle's Quest" to find out when...

Charles Messina is a writer and director best known for his deconstructive biographical shows. His most notable stage works as a director have been "Cirque Jacqueline" about the life of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, "Mercury: The Afterlife and Times of a Rock God" about Queen's frontman Freedie Mercury and "Mark Twain's Last Stand." This past September, Charles' show "A Room of My Own" received an private industry reading (and here is hoping a full production will come) which I was fortunate enough to attend. Currently, Charles is directing the hit Off-Broadway show "The Accidental Pervert" at the Players Theatre in NYC (115 MacDougal Street, between West 3rd & Minetta Lane).

1. Charles: Who or what inspired you to become a playwright? My mother. She was funny and bold and bright on so many levels and such a dichotomy of a personality that there is no character or artist I will ever meet who will ever have inspired me more.

Patrick: Who inspired you to become a performer? My mother used to drag myself and my brothers to 2 or 3 movies in our childhood. She just loved movies, so it was just always with me that I wanted to be an actor. I delayed it and I delayed it and I delayed, but I finally took the plunge.

2. Who's the one person you haven't worked with that you would like to?

Charles: The problem is the one person I would have really liked to work with is not possible to do so because he's not alive, but if I could have worked with anybody it would have been Jackie Gleason. I'm a huge fan of his.

Patrick: I tend to like British actors like Ralph Fiennes, British director Mike Lee, or Irish actors like Emily Watson.

3. If you couldn't be doing what you are doing now, what career would you choose?

Charles: I think I would a psychologist because I'm very curious about human nature and behavior. I find people and characters fascinating. I minored in it, so on some level I've always found it interesting. What we do as performers is all about human behavior and psychology anyway.

Patrick: That seems right about you.

Charles: Yeah?

Patrick: Yes.

Me: Do you feel that you bring some of that into your writing?

Charles: Yeah, I mean everything for me has to be an exploration of the character. Why people do what they do. I may not always find the answer, but I'm always searching for the reason. Often times all we have to work with is the behavior.

Patrick: About 30 years ago, when cable TV was still in it's infancy, I became fascinated by the idea of HBO where you had such freedom that you didn't have on network TV and I would have loved to be part of that. I was in advertising at the time, but I always thought it would have been a nice career choice to have been in an area where you could have as much freedom as you could on cable and develop that medium and even have been part of it as an actor.

Charles: Do you mean like a cable network executive or a cable programmer?

Patrick: You don't want to praise business, but you have to give a hand to HBO.

Charles: They've done it well for a long time. And how about the fact that HBO and Carlin were really connected at the waist. He did all his specials on HBO and they always had a place for him to do his specials. He lived to do those specials.

Patrick: I have an admiration for HBO for some of the wise bets they've taken over the years.

4. What's the best advice you've ever received?

Charles: "To just be good at something and you'll find your way in life." I really took that to heart, especially as a writer because if you can be good at it, no one can ever deny you. I know that sometimes art is subjective, but I think in general we all know when see something that is good quality, even if we don't agree with it.

Patrick: A few people encouraged me to take some chances. I ride in from Jersey on the train and I see people middle-aged or older going to the office and I'm glad I made a choice not to do that. I mean, I gave up a lot, the financial sacrifice, but I'm glad I did that.

Charles: There's a great, great line that people say on their death bed, nobody ever says "I wish I spent more time in the office."

Both: That is definitely true.

5. Charles: Favorite place to write? I used to write by hand so I could use a composition notebook and I always did it that way. I would use the composition notebook first and then retype everything onto the computer. There was just a way the ideas flowed down from my brain to my hand. It was always very real and honest. Now, I just type on the computer. So, my house is my favorite place, especially if it's late at night or early in the morning because you sort of feel you have the world to yourself and you can just sit with your own thoughts. Creatively good things happen at night. As a writer, you're writing all the time and you never know when inspiration is going to strike. A lot of people ask me, how long did it take you to develop "Room" and I say 38 years. Whereas "Bye, George" was more of a quick idea because I always wanted to do something about Carlin and Patrick and I even developed some of the text together.

Patrick: Favorite place to rehearse on your own? Different parts of the house.

Charles: Did it need to be quiet?

Patrick: I live in a suburban area and I would go into a bedroom or dining room and close all the doors and windows so I can be as loud as I want.

6. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that nobody knows about?

Charles: I'm able to crack my thumb and pull excessive skin from my face (but not at the same time).

Patrick: There are times when I'm feeling good I think that I play tennis in an unusual way...I don't follow the rules that much. One thing I enjoy doing and my grandkids think I'm nuts is that I try to imitate my cat and I've developed a voice that I think if my cat could speak, he would use. I make recordings and play it for my grandkids. When my grandkids were younger, I think their reaction bordered on amusement and thinking I was a little off, but I still did it because I enjoyed it. Sometimes when my grandkids are in the house, I'll do a phony weather report, which I pre-recorded and they'll come into the room and I play it for them.

7. Favorite way to stay in shape?

Charles: Starving myself to death.

Patrick: You don't eat much do you?

Charles: You know what, I'm one of those people who forgets to eat. I can go the whole day without eating.

Patrick: Do you wake up and eat breakfast?

Charles: Yeah, yeah, it's not that I don't enjoy eating, I do, but I forget to do it sometimes. I also play sports with my son...baseball, basketball, football. What about you Patrick, what do you do? If you say, go to the gym, I'll walk out of here right now.

Patrick: No, I really enjoy tennis, but came to it late in my life. I used play singles 2-3 times a week, but I'm sort of coming off that now, and moving to the exercise bike.

Both: What about you Adam, what do you do to say in shape?

Me: Since I moved into the city, I walk to work everyday or go to the gym. 

8. Boxers or Briefs?

Charles: Boxer-briefs.

Patrick: Neither.

Charles: Come on, don't make me sick, I'm gonna throw up in my mouth.

Everyone: Laughing.

9. Favorite website?

Charles: Google.com.

Patrick: Same. IMDB is great too.

10. Superman or Wonder Woman?

Charles: My mother would want me to say Wonder Woman and I tell you what, Lynda Carter was really something else when I was a kid.

Patrick: I grew up with the original "Superman" George Reeves, so I would say Superman.

Charles: The original "Superman" TV show is still one of the greatest openings ever..."Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive."

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. What's your proudest moment?

Charles: I have two, personally, the proudest moment was the day my son was born. There can be no moment that could ever touch that moment and nothing I do in life will ever be more important than being a good father. Professionally, doing a "Room of My Own" was really special because it's been in development for so many years and to finally get to see it on stage and have people laugh was a pivotal moment. I will also say that doing "Bye, George" is a proud moment because I grew up watching Carlin so having this piece come to life is also special to me.

Patrick: Moments where I've been with my 3 kids.

12. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be?

Charles: What if I dream about them when I'm awake?

Me: You could do that too.

Charles: You want me to have like a hard-core dream?

Me: You have any kind of dream you want.

Charles: This guy is something, I tell you. He wants a dirty answer, but you're not bating me into a dirty answer.

Patrick: Good question.

Charles: Seriously, if I could dream about anyone, it would be my parents because I miss them so much. It would be great to just have one more conversation with them, especially after staging "Room" and find out what they thought about it and everything since they've been gone.

Patrick: Sometimes I'm very disappointed in that I don't think we've evolved as much as we could have, so I would want to dream about human nature, going back to the Greeks and Roman or more recently as Thomas Jefferson.

Charles: What about Lynda Carter? Don't you want to dream about Lynda Carter? I wouldn't mind dreaming about her, remember that outfit.

Patrick: No, that didn't do anything for me.

Charles: Oh come on Patrick, you're just worried your wife is going to read this.

Both: Those are really good questions. Thanks for doing this and coming tonight.

Justin Sayre

Mairi Dorman-Phaneuf