Classics, with a contemporary sensibility

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Artistic director of Hunger & Thirst Theatre company on celebrating theater’s past today


  • Patricia Lynn and Jordan Kaplan in a 2015 production of "Animal Kingdom 2." Photo: David Anderson

  • Patricia Lynn and Tom Schwans in a 2016 production of "Dracula," adapted by Lynn from the novel by Bram Stoker. Photo: Ian Friedman


In 2012, Patricia Lynn founded Hunger & Thirst Theatre around the idea of finding universal themes in classic works. She notes the name was derived from the notion of the starving artist. “You know, we’re hunger and thirsting for theater,” she explained. The company stays true to its roots and offers half-price tickets to those who bring non-perishables for their food drive.

There is also an outreach component built around a theme from each show. At their past production of “Dracula,” for example, they passed the hat for the New York Blood Center. And for their upcoming reimagining of “Pericles,” “Pericles: Born in a Tempest,” they are collecting donations for those affected by all the hurricanes this season, in keeping with the shipwrecks and storms in the play.

As artistic director, Lynn wears multiple hats and has done virtually every theater task imaginable, from designing costumes to hanging lightbulbs. When asked to describe her role, she said it encompasses having a vision for the piece they’re producing, seeing how it fits into modern-day sensibilities, determining what its message will be and articulating that on stage.

When did you come to New York? What was it like when you first arrived?

I moved here in 2009. I graduated from Brown/Trinity that same year and pretty much did what all MFA actors do, and moved out to New York to try to start doing this professionally.... It’s overwhelming, but kind of great though. I was lucky in that both schools I went to — University of Evansville and Brown/Trinity — have a lot of graduates living here, so there is a support system. At Brown/Trinity, in particular, one thing they really teach us is to make your own opportunities and produce your own works. There are a lot of Brown/Trinity companies working in New York, such as Fiasco and Guerilla Shakespeare, so having those people as inspiration and there to talk to about what it’s like living here really eased the transition for sure.

How did you come to found Hunger & Thirst?

It was just a couple of University of Evansville graduates and me talking about how we just wanted to make our own opportunities. And I had just read a Chekhov play. I had read it when I was in my early 20s and then read it again in my late 20s, and it was a completely new experience just being six years older and understanding where these people are coming from and what these characters are talking about.... So it really started with that one play that I was inspired by. And I was like, “Oh, I can direct, produce and act in it. This is a great idea.” Then I had a couple of other artists who came along with me.

How can you describe the company? On your website, it says it produces classic stories, not classical theater.

My definition of a classic story is one that has universal themes and ideas. So basically anything that no matter how old you are, your gender, occupation, ethnicity — no matter who are — you understand the theme as a human being alive today. And that’s what makes a classic because it makes it relevant in any time period. And a lot of classical plays do fall under that category. We did a Philip Barry play in 2015, which was a very 1930s romantic comedy. But when we read it, we were like, “Dating back then is exactly like dating today. Nothing has changed.” [Laughs] Something Hunger & Thirst always tries to do is bring classic stories to the modern age. So what are the things in this classic story that we feel are relevant in 2017 that we can highlight for our audience? Either by setting it in modern day, or just by simply highlighting those themes and ideas.

You’re doing “Pericles” now. What is your take on the story?

A young woman has just lost her father and his last gift to her was a handwritten book of stories with the central character being Pericles, who was the character he told her stories about in her childhood. So it’s her opening the book and theatricality and imagination takes over. So it will be a very magical kind of feeling, which is exciting for us because this is our first time doing something like that with the company. We’re doing it in association with the Guerilla Shakespeare Project, which is another Brown/Trinity company, founded by alumni who have worked with Hunger & Thirst previously. So it ended up just being a natural collaboration between the two. Jordan Reeves is the director, who is kind of the visionary who has cut the text. It’s all still Shakespeare; none of it is modern day. But he’s moved the text around to highlight the story of a woman understanding her father through this story of Pericles.

I saw that one of the nonprofits you raised money for was IndyKids newspaper, where I was once a mentor. How did you partner with them?

We pick an organization based on the show. So we were doing “Messenger #1,” which was a retelling of “Oresteia” from the point of view of the servants, the messengers. So a major theme of the show was finding your voice and speaking your mind. So we found IndyKids and contacted them, and handed out the newspaper at the end of the show and also passed the hat for them a curtain call.

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