Curtain Call: Patrick Sweetman finds satisfaction teaching acting

Curtain Call: Patrick Sweetman finds satisfaction teaching acting

May 17th, 2012 by Barry Courter in Life Entertainment

Patrick Sweetman is shown in a scene from "Moonlight and Magnolias," from a previous Chattanooga Theatre Centre production.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.


Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio.

Age: 46.

Wife: Theresa Liedtka.

Vocation: Assistant professor, Theatre and Speech Department, UTC.


Book: "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" by John Le Carre.

Musical: ""Oklahoma!"

Plays: "I teach 'Hamlet' every semester and find something new. I teach 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' every semester, and the way the plot fits together astonishes me every time. I just reread 'The Lieutenant of Inishmore,' by Martin McDonagh and really liked it."

Movies: "The Usual Suspects," "Casablanca," "Three Days of the Condor" "Apocalypse Now" and "Topsy Turvy."

Actors: Harrison Ford, Kevin Spacey, Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt, Robert Downey Jr., Robert Redford, Humphrey Bogart, Joseph Cotten, Samuel L. Jackson.

Song: "City of the Dead," The Clash.

Thousands of people move to California in pursuit of an acting career and the fame and fortune that can come with it.

Patrick Sweetman was no different. But after a few years chasing the dream, Sweetman realized it wasn't what he really wanted.

"I went to Hollywood to become famous or whatever and discovered that that was not what I wanted to do," he said.

Several things led to his decision, but one of the key turning points was realizing that more than a few aspiring stars were willing to spend three and four days waiting in line to audition to be on "American Idol."

"I was not willing to do that," he said.

Sweetman is an associate professor in the theater and speech department at UTC and has acted in several productions at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre.

He recently co-starred in "Mr. and Mrs. M."

Q: How long have you been at UTC?

A: Since the fall of 2004.

Q: Where were you before that?

A: Living in Buena Parks, Calif., working on cars and pursuing acting full time, although that is the wrong order.

Q: What brought you to Chattanooga?

A: (Wife) Theresa got a job at UTC.

Q: What sort of acting were you doing in California?

A: TV and film, but that was for the first two years. The third year I ended up doing theater and a couple of student films and one or two independent films, but I never heard anything more from them. I don't even know if they were completed.

Q: What led to your decision to leave California?

A: I was older than what they were looking for. It was a personal thinking, but basically I was not willing to sacrifice everything.

Q: What do you mean specifically?

A: In LA, that is kind of the ballgame. It was the second season of "American Idol," or maybe the third, but they held the auditions at the Rose Bowl and people were waiting in line for four days, and I was not willing to that.

I realized I was not going to throw away this thing of who I am. It's surprising that I figured it out after I'd spent my whole life thinking I would do whatever, but when it came down to it, I realized I would not. Plus, my relationship with my wife became a priority, so it was really a good time to go.

Q: But why Chattanooga?

A: It was a surprising decision. California was OK but felt like we were staying in the place the whole time. And Theresa's parents had some health issues, and this is closer to them.

During our first visit, she had two days of interviews, so I had some time and walked across the walking bridge and saw the (Chattanooga) Theatre Centre and thought, "Wow, this a weird, wild place that maybe I can make work."

Q: Had you taught acting before?

A: I had taught in a couple of places, though none at all in California. I taught in Washington, D.C., at workshops and in Boston at the Beau Geste Theatre Company and a summer camp in Derby, Mass.

Teaching is different every place, but you learn how to control a classroom, and that is the same no matter what.

Q: What do you teach?

A: Introduction to theater. It's a subject for nonmajors and is the history and practice. And also Acting 1 for serious actors or students majoring in theater.

Q: Has your California experience shaped how you teach?

A: I don't think so.

Q: How does the fact that you act in community theater and have directed affect your teaching?

A: I'm used to getting up in front of people, and the improvisational aspect keeps the classroom lively. Directing helps through the organizational aspect and planning. You take an idea, write it down, and then you execute it.

Teaching has helped the acting and the directing as well. You have to learn to be clear in your explanation of things.

I've enjoyed teaching way more than I thought I would. I enjoy watching people get ideas and put them into action.

And I guess I just dig theater. Maybe 800 people saw "Mr. and Mrs. M." So you had all of that work and effort and only 800 people saw it. It's like it was individually prepared for each one of them.