Broadway Archives - Patty Lyons | Knitting Teacher

The TNNA you never knew (the needle arts association)

TNNA – that happened!

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I have been traveling so much (I counted up 11 teaching trips between May – October!!!).  Yesterday I had a rare day off before my next trip to teach at the Knit and Crochet Show, and I was doing fun chores like going through receipts and filing expense reports (the life of a knitting teacher is so glamorous). I also finally sorted through some photos on the i phone – long overdue.

I came across these videos that I took on the sales floor of the annual trade show called TNNA (The National Needle Arts Association).  The theme for this years show was “Hooray For Needle Arts”.  Once again it seems like my old Broadway life was following me into my knitting life . . . sort of.

I will post links with no commentary.  Enjoy!

Opening Number!!

One More

 

Musings on the Tonys and How SMASH got it wrong

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Tony Awards

Last night was Tony night.  We had friends over (as we usually do) to watch the show, and it was great. People often ask me if I miss my life in theatre, and the answer (and it’s always genuine) is no, I really don’t.  I love my life as a knitting teacher, I love working with the amazing staff at the Studio, I love working with knitters . . . but once a year, when I watch the Tonys I am filled with good memories.  That’s the thing about distance, it allows you to see the wonderful without the mess of the negative.  When I remember my 22 years as a Stage Manager, I now get to look back on all the laughter and not focus on the back breaking hours, the heart break and the stress.

I remember laughing so hard, late at night, during tech, between shows, on a three show weekend, during a five hour put in rehearsal – hanging out in the wardrobe room playing online Scrabble with Jessica, searching for any chain restaurant while out of town with Michael, watching Tripp delight in the talking Krusty doll on the god mic, talking with Mama Kelli, Sara and Cara in the “vault” that is the dance captain’s room, so many memories of fun and affection and laughter.  . . and that’s when it hit me, what SMASH got wrong.

SMASH the sad, serious, tragic lives . . .

I had my fun along with the rest of the theatre peeps, groaning about how SMASH got it wrong.  All the technical silliness – the doorman that let an actress wander into backstage and the ASM that said “wait in the wings” (during a show), or the SM that said the hilarious “places for the final number”, like they were doing a Miss America Pageant, or the rehearsal of the intermission shift on the dinner break before a preview (cause there’s nothin’ an IATSE crew wouldn’t do on a dinner break – if the show needed it), or the quick change that involved the dresser basically handing the actress a dress and then watching her change, but it wasn’t any of those things.  That’s not what they missed.  That’s not what they got wrong.  Nobody laughed, nobody had fun, they were all so serious, so very tragic.

That’s why it made a life in the theatre look bad.  Not because of all the stupid, silly, ridiculous things that could never, would never happen, but because nobody, ever seemed to have fun, no one ever seemed to laugh!

That reminds me . . . Friday night the Studio staff is having a yarn dyeing party, and I for one, intend to laugh my head off.

When Worlds Collide – The Last Five Years

The Last Five (12) Years

Recently I had to face my own age when I attended a revival of a show I originated. It was bound to happen. I was a stage manager for 22 years, and in that time I worked on many world premieres. I guess a revival was inevitable . . . but I wasn’t ready . . . I still don’t feel old enough to be attending a revival of one of my old shows.

The show was The Last Five Years, and it was a (shocking) twelve years ago when I first Stage Managed the world premiere. It was a wonderful, moving, surreal experience to see it. However, the really odd thing happened after the show, when my old and new worlds collided.

After saying hello to my old pals I stopped in the lobby to tell the lead actor what a wonderful job he did. We were talking in the lobby and he asked me what show I was doing now.  I explained that I quit the business seven years ago and I now worked for a yarn company running their branding site. A young woman who was listening to our conversation, very nervously introduced herself to me. She said she was a Stage Management student and she was a big fan of my work. My knee jerk reaction was to ask “Why?” You see, Stage Managers are behind the scenes, and nobody knows them and they certainly don’t have fans. She explained that she was also a knitter. Ah yes . . . I forgot, standing in the lobby of a theatre and spending time with people from my old life, I forgot. I forgot that there’s a whole other group of people who know me not from theatre, but from knitting – weird. In the context of being in the theatre again, I was not thinking of my new life.

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Old work space (Rehearsal room Jersey Boys)

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                                                          New work space

The next day I was teaching a knitting class.  At the end of the class one of my first time students said I looked familiar.  I explained that she might have seen me on You Tube or on some of the TV interviews I’ve done for the Studio.  With each knitting related place I named that she might know me from, she just said “no”, “no”, “didn’t see it”.  Then, almost joking I said, “I used to be in theatre”.  She said “That’s how I know you!  I’m a Stage Manager”.

Weird.  Being recognized for knitting in a theatre lobby, being recognized for theatre in the knitting class.

Funny world.

Me & Tripp in tech

Me at work – then (with Tripp Phillips)

Me and Meg Swansen

Me at work – now (with Meg Swansen)

What Does Broadway and Knitting Have in Common?

I’ve had a few epiphanies lately about theater (my old life) and knitting (my new life) and the things they have in common.

42 - Company

 My old life – Company of 42nd Street (I’m in the first row to the left)

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My new life – Standing up in front of a room full of knitters, teaching

Healing properties of Knitting

Let me start with a few weeks ago. Recently I spent a week at the Mayo clinic with someone very close to me. She has been sick for a year, and we were going to spend the week getting tests and hoping for answers. During her year from hell, she had been exploring meditation and mindfulness, and was now interested in learning how to knit. I brought yarn and needles and came ready to share the meditative qualities of knitting. Over the course of the week we mastered the knit stitch and started to practice the purl.

Knitting seemed to be with us all week. I couldn’t help noticing how many people in the waiting rooms were knitting. One day I was sitting in a waiting room filling out forms, when out of a changing room came a woman who sat down next to me and started to knit.  She was clearly a beginner and struggling to remember the purl. She was holding the yarn in the front, but couldn’t remember how to insert the needle. She kept inserting it front to back into the back loop, and couldn’t figure out what to do next. I asked her if she needed help. I explained the difference between the knit and the purl and broke it down into the basics so she understood what the needle was for etc.  She thanked me and said nobody had ever explained it that way and it now makes so much sense.  I told her thank you, and explained that I was a professional knitting teacher.  She laughed and said “Really, I didn’t know that was a profession!”.  Then not wanting to offend me she added “I mean, that’s great. It’s a great hobby, so it’s cool that you do it for a living”.

I had such a flash back to the feeling that I had on and off for 22 years while I was a stage manager.  Members of my family found my profession odd and some treated me like it wasn’t a “real” job.  I dreaded being at parties with “civilians” (that’s non theatre folks) when the inevitable questions would start asking me to explain what I did, “do you design, are you the director, what do you do?”. Once again I seemed to have ventured into a career choice that those outside of my specific circle found an oddity. I realized that once again, I dreaded being in a group of “civilians” (now meaning non yarncrafters), who found what I did for a living “cute.

Ah well, back at home the next week I was giving an interview, and was asked why is it that for so many people this hobby becomes a passion.  I’ve been asked this many times in many interviews, so I started to speak about the connection we feel with the past, with each other, with something greater than ourselves, how making something with our hands that we control from beginning to end is an incredibly empowering feeling, the healing power of knitting . . . and it hit me.  My old life and my new life have more in common than I realized.

Both jobs may be looked on by outsiders as “odd” or not a real job for grown ups, but both professions bring joy, peace and inspiration. I may have lost sight of that in the most harried days of my theatre life, and I may sometimes lose sight of it now, but I am going to try to remember it during the tough days. Since both jobs also include long hours and lots of deadlines, it’s easy to lose sight of what you love and why you do it. When I get a thank you e-mail from a student it’s all worth it.

I remember, years ago seeing an amazing show written by Jane Wagner, and starring Lily Tomlin called “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe”.  The show features a character named Trudy who speaks to Aliens as she tries to help them understand us.  In Act I she tries to explain the different between Soup and Art (Cambells v.s. Warhol) At the end, the aliens go in search of a “goose bump” moment, and they go to the theater. In a moment that I remember made me cry, Trudy explains why the aliens were watching the audience and not the stage:

Yeah, to see a group of strangers sitting together in the dark, laughing and crying about the same things…that just knocked ’em out. They said, “Trudy, the play was soup…the audience…art.”

May we all strive in our daily life to look for art amongst the soup.

Count down, cast offs, and goodbyes

The count down begins. I have 8 more shows, 6 more days, 4 rehearsals left of Jersey Boys before I’m HOME. . . . back in Park Slope, back in my own bed, sitting in my garden. Then, a week from today I will start my training at The Point. Yeah! I should be packing today since Wed – Sun I need to be at the theatre at noon. I’m avoiding it by blogging and watching The Colbert Report. I’ve been here for nine months, so I have a LOT to pack.

Yesterday was a big day for cast offs and stash busting. I finished two of the “left over cotton projects”. My mother in law gave me a ton of white and red cotton yarn. She had been given a half finished sweater that neither of us liked or wanted to finish, so we frogged it and reballed it. First I made the white cotton cable sweater


The pattern called for the sweater to be knit straight (with no side shaping),
but I added side shaping since cotton has no negative ease. It turned out pretty good, but I could have gone narrower in the waist. I really like the cable on the shoulder and the roll neck line.

I still have a lot of white cotton left, but not enough to do the lace cardigan in Vogue’s summer 07 issue, so I’ll buy some more. Why is it that the attempted stash busting always lead to buying more yarn??? Does that happen to any of you?

As for the red cotton. I whipped up this little cable tank.




Next cast off from yesterday was a simple garter stitch triangular shawl/scarf. It was made from some cool black and white boucle yarn (more Mother in law left overs!) mixed with a ball of leftover black mohair from my cotton/mohair sweater.


Of course you can’t have cast offs, without cast ons. Continuing my trend of stash busting, I’m making a little lace bolero from my two leftover skeins of Rowan Polar from my Winterwonderland sweater.



That’s count down, cast offs, and now to the goodbyes . . . Yesterday was my last Monday with Chicks with Sticks. Sadly I could only stay a half hour (more about that later). I was glad I came by, but sorry I missed so many folks. I can’t thank this group enough for welcoming a stranger into their midst nine months ago. It’s been my home away from home and, many weeks, has been the only part of my week that I’ve liked. This group was a big part of my decision to change my career and my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I ended my evening going to a benefit performance for BCEFA. It was a join effort by the casts of Jersey Boys and Avenue Q. They were great! Some highlights for me . . . the puppets of Avenue Q auditioning for Jersey Boys singing “God I hope I get it” from Chorus Line. The swings from Jersey Boys singing about how hard it is to be understudying all those roles to the tune of Avenue Q’s song “It sucks to be me”, but the winner has to be Jake Speck’s original country music song – wait for it – “You’re only gay if you take it”. Beyond words.

Right before intermission was the auction. At one point when the bidding had slowed John Hickman offered to put on a red bra if they got a bid of $1300


John Hickman, Drew Gehling, Jarrod Spector

Here’s another pic from the auction. This was for the Jersey Boys package. It went for $2800!

The boys singing their movie medley


The whole cast singing the finale

Tony night & ADD knitting day

Last week was another long week at work. We had a little something to look forward to at the end of the week. Larry’s Tony party. His pre-baseball party was amazing, so I could only imagine what he and his roommate (who owns the wonderful Soluna restaurant in San Francisco) would come up with for Tony night. We were NOT disappointed. We were all told to dress in “cocktail attire”. I, of course, chose to wear a hand knit. Never pass up the opportunity to hear “you did not make that”. I wore Marnie MacLean’s Evening Diamond tank.
and, yes, I did make that.

Me with the wonderful Jersey Girls, Lyndsey Cole & Jenny Lee Ramos
So right away, as soon as we reach his front door, the fun begins. He had filled the door with signs you might find in a theatre lobby “this show will be performed without an intermission”, “there are strobe lights used in this production”, and my favorite “musical theatre songs will be heard tonight”. When you open the door you are, literally, greeted with the red carpet treatment. He had put a red carpet in his hallway, and set up strobe lights (to look like flash cameras going off) all around the hallway. After your red carpet photo is taken, you enter full blown Tony land. First there’s the fridge decorated with famous “Tonys

Please note, Tony Blair, Tenille, Randall, Soprano, and my favorite . . . the tiger
The living room was full of Tony displays, from the Grey Gardens flower arrangement (please note the can of corn, and cat food. If you know the show, you’ll know why)

to the dining room hutch filled with the nominees:


There was one last hidden tribute to Broadway. It was not in the living room, not in the dining room. It was not even a tribute to a nominee. It was the logo to a certain (then already) doomed Broadway show, taped to the inside of the toilet seat. Since that show has posted closing, I’ll let it remain nameless.

Then there was the food!! Leave it to a restaurant owner to really put out a great spread


The bar:


And our bartender (otherwise known as our host)


Cocktail hour was on the roof. It’s a great deck with a great view


Me & Danny AustinJohn Michael Dias, Jake Speck, Steven Goldsmith
(looking oh so much like the San Francisco Jersey Boys version of the cast of The Godfather)

Soon it was showtime, and we all had a great time watching on the big screen.
Some were rooting for their favorites. Me, I just wanted to win the Tony poll (big money, big money, big money). Turns out, I came in second. Ah well, I won a nice bottle of wine.By the end of the evening Larry was ready to call it a night. He had already changed into something a little more comfortable. Here he is on the red carpet with Jeremy Kushnier. I’ll give you a hint . . . Larry is the one to the left.

After the Tony’s were over we headed over to a bizarre nightclub called the StarLight Room. As you could guess by the name, or see by the web page. It was a bit like stepping back in time.


I didn’t get home until well after 2:30 am . . . VERY late for me these days. Monday was a very ADD day of knitting and spinning. I couldn’t seem to commit to any one project for very long. I would spin for a bit, measure & ball remainder of old yarn. At one point I was alternating between three different projects. When I go up to have a cup of coffee and saw that my little couch looked like this:


I knew it was time to focus. That’s (from left to right) Tempting II – almost finished, a simple garter stitch triangular scarf I’m doing from two left over yarns held together, and the cotton cable sweater front – almost finished.

Monday night Larry (otherwise known as Julie cruise director) set up a Jersey Boys themed movie night at his pals restaurant, Soluna. It was a double feature of All About Eve (which was filmed at the Curran Theatre), and The Blob (Jersey Boys fans will know why). I watched 3/4 or All About Eve, but then I hopped on the J train to go to Chicks with Sticks to do a little knitting with the gals.

They posted a swell pic of me in my new sweater, posing at Noe Knit. I had to steal it for my own blog.

Finally . . .

After years of saying “why would anyone want to read what I have to write” (all the while reading every knitting blog I could find), I finally gave in. My first post is kinda long – I’m just catching up.

So, here I am . . . a little about me. I’m a Stage Manager who lives in FABULOUS Park Slope Brooklyn. Years ago when I was working at Lincoln Center I used to sit in rehearsal and watch Ira Weitzman (the Musical Theatre Associate Producer) knit hats. I was fascinated by the strange and wonderful circular needles. I had learned to knit when I was a kid, but I never got past the ole’ garter stitch scarf stage. My next step towards knitting obsession was when I was working as a Stage Manager on the Broadway show 42nd Street.

(Company shot – that’s me in the black shirt & jeans in the first row)

Many of the people from the hair and wardrobe department would knit on the deck (backstage) during the show. I finally asked Jack, one of the hair guys to teach me to knit. . . four years, many garments, and many hundreds of dollars of yarn later, here I am.

For my first post, I’ll give you all an abbreviated rewind of my year. This past season has been full of knitting triumphs and disasters.

Last summer I was in Seattle with the pre-Broadway (which in this case turned into STILL not on Broadway) run of Princesses.

There was far too much moving scenery, and thus too many opportunities for chorus girls to be run over, for me to get much knitting done backstage. Not like Dessa Rose. . .that tech (the time in the rehearsal process when you move to the theatre and add all the sets, lights, costumes etc.) was so long I got three pairs of socks done, and started a poncho!
Next up in my season was Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. That show had a character who was supposed to be knitting a scarf on a train. The actress didn’t know how to knit. I taught her the knit stitch, and another yarn obsessed freak was born! By the time the show was over she finished her first scarf and hat. I was so proud.

As for my nine weeks in San Francisco, I had a Stitch and Bitch obsessed winter.

Here’s my version of the marsupial tote. I made it a messenger bag, and added a little stripe.
Here’s my Under the Hoodie
and last but not least, my Manly Sweater (on my manly man, David)
Before my summer vacation began, I had to survive a full Season at Encores! Encores is kind of hard to explain. For fans of Big Brother All Stars, think of the fast forward week (where they had to do a whole week of shows in one day). That’s what Encores is to musical theatre. It’s doing a big ole’ giant musical in two weeks. It’s Broadway on crack. With that schedule, it’s a miracle I got any projects off the needles. I managed to finish my lace scarf for my sister. I made it from a ball of REALLY thin mohair that was given to me as a thank you gift from the actress I taught to knit in White Christmas. When my fellow Stage Manager (and expert knitter) Alissa saw it, she said “why would you want to knit with thread!” After finishing it I wondered the same thing, but it turned out kinda swell.
My favorite project this spring was the Bolero sweater from Weekend Knitting, by the fabulous Melanie Falick. It was pretty tricky, and it was the first thing I ever knit that looked EXACTLY like the picture in the book. When does that ever happen? I knit it with Cervinia Londra in Berry Heather. I bought it on sale at the crazy big Smiley’s Yarn Sale (a huge yarn shop in Queens) last spring. Okay, I know it’s kind of queer, but I had to pose just like the book.

That takes me up to my fabulous summer vacation. More about that and my summer’s worth of FOs in my next post.