Patrick Midgley remembers standing outside the stage door of Wooster’s Freedlander Theatre on Sept. 15, 2006, and thinking, “What did I get myself into?”
It was opening night for the theatre department’s production of “Nocturne,” a harrowing tale of tragedy, loss, grief, and remorse that would challenge the abilities of the most seasoned actor. Midgley, a senior theatre major cast in the play’s central role, was about to take the stage and hold it, almost single-handed, for the next 90 minutes.
The result was a triumph. After playing to full houses on campus and in regional college theatre festivals that fall, “Nocturne” was one of four plays selected from a field of almost 400 entries to be performed at the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival in Washington, D.C., in April 2007. Midgley received a special commendation from the Kennedy Center for his performance.
After earning an M.F.A. from Purdue University, today Midgley is a working actor, about to begin his second contract with the American Shakespeare Center in Virginia. Asked about the leap of faith required to pursue an acting career, he says his experience at Wooster “gave me the confidence that I needed to begin.”
“The faculty I worked with at Wooster took chances on me that perhaps no other faculty would take on an undergraduate student. It was their faith, demands, and examples that inspired me to pursue my passion for acting.”
“Working with Patrick on ‘Nocturne’ was a dream come true,” says Shirley Huston-Findley, associate professor of theatre and dance. “I’ve always said the stars aligned for that project, which he initiated, and my role was simply to bring all the necessary people together to make it happen. As a director working with a determined actor, I was able to dig deeply into the text and assist him in developing a rich and multi-layered character that brought Adam Rapp’s play to a place of honesty and magic.”
“It was a tough rehearsal process and I got to know Shirley really well,” Midgley says. “She believed in me, challenged me, and made just an extraordinary investment in me as an individual. I’m so grateful for that.”
The American Shakespeare Center offers a different sort of challenge. It’s a repertory company, which means each week Midgley plays five roles — including Prince Hal in “Henry IV, Part 2” and Cassio in “Othello” — in five different plays. Along with the other actors, he’s also part of a band that performs before each show.
What comes next? “Well, in this business, if you can continue to pay the bills, you’re succeeding,” he says with a laugh. “I try to keep a five-year plan in the back of my mind, but I’ll take the work as it comes.”
Looking back at his Wooster experience, Midgley says, “It can be whatever you choose to make it. The power and authority you’re given as an undergraduate is really remarkable, and that has served me and my friends well.”
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