By Lynn Venhaus
Rain, heat, humidity and bugs. Acting on outdoor stages brings its own set of problems, which Patrick Blindauer knows first-hand. He performed in three shows this summer, kicking off the season with Shakespeare Festival St. Louis as Costard in “Love’s Labors Lost,” then moving on to the Muny in “1776” and “Footloose.”
“I’ve never been as aware of the weather as I am when
working outdoors. If I see it’s going to be hot, I have to make sure to start
hydrating an hour or so beforehand. I’m also a big proponent of sunscreen and
bug-spray,” he said.
An above-average rainfall has wreaked havoc on performance schedules, and recently, an extreme heat wave has made performing outdoors a challenge. In “Footloose,” he is rocking a permed mullet as Coach Roger Dunbar. Although when the weather broke, Monday’s crowd was the highest of the season – a beautiful night at the Muny.
“Footloose” is the third time he is working in a show with his wife, Rebecca Young.
“First was “My Fair Lady” at Stages St. Louis and then there was “Annie” at the Muny last year (She played Warbucks’ maid Mrs. Pugh, he was Bundles – picking up the laundry at the orphanage). This year we’re actually playing husband and wife (Eleanor Dunbar, who is on the Bomont school board),” he said.
Young is a veteran of regional and national stages. She toured in “The Producers” and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, appeared in “Carnival!” at the Kennedy Center and at Stages St. Louis in “Fiddler on the Roof” and “On the Town,” in addition to the “My Fair Lady,” where she met Patrick. They have been married for eight years and have one daughter, Magnolia, aka Maggie, who is 3 years old.
Blindauer graduated from the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University and moved to New York City in 1998. He can be seen in the Oscar-winning “A Beautiful Mind” – he had one line — and was on seven episodes of “Strangers with Candy,” a Comedy Central series that ran for three seasons.
Never mind working with Russell Crowe. What was working with Amy Sedaris like?
“She’s awesome. So sweet off-camera, but such a cut-up on the set. She would have an idea for a moment and do a couple of different takes so they could pick later. I’m so glad she’s having continued success,” he said.
He returned to St. Louis in 2011 and became known for an eclectic body of work.
He is versatile enough to join Jerry Vogel in the intense drama “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” at Upstream Theater and to cavort as the accordion-playing Cheshire Cat in the musical “Wonderland: Alice’s Rock and Roll Adventure” at Metro Theatre Company last holiday season.
Besides this year’s Shakespeare Festival, he has worked with the group in last year’s “Romeo and Juliet,” as part of the prologue and played Peter and the Apothecary. He was in the Festival’s “Shake in the Streets” original “Twelfth Night” take “The World Begun,” performed in north St. Louis in September 2015.
He thinks the festival is one of the city’s best summer traditions.
“It’s incredible. Where else can you have a picnic and watch free Shakespeare under the stars with thousands of other people?” he said.
His performance as Costard in “Love’s Labors Lost”received rave reviews from theater critics. A comic character, he is a country bumpkin who is arrested for not adhering to the king’s proclamation that all men of the court avoid the company of women for three years.
He enjoyed portraying Costard and the opportunity to work with executive producer Tom Ridgely, who directed for the first time after moving here last year.
“Costard is such a fun role. He’s a clown who also figures into the plot, and I was given lots of freedom to play around, which I appreciated,” he said. “Tom speaks the speech very well, and I thought that he fostered a collaborative, congenial atmosphere in the rehearsal hall. I’d love the chance to work with him again.”
Another fun role was the iconic Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz” for the Variety Theatre in 2017. He will return in this year’s “Mary Poppins,” set for the Touhill Center for the Performing Arts Oct. 18-20 and 25-27. The Variety Children’s Charity sponsors an annual musical that includes children with physical and developmental disabilities working with professional actors.
“Variety is an amazing organization, one that truly transforms lives, and their yearly musical is a thing of beauty. ‘Oz’ was a ton of fun and working with those kids and Lara (Teeter) was a real treat. I can’t say anything about ‘Mary Poppins’ quite yet, I’m afraid,” he said.
Returning to the Muny the past few seasons has been a pleasure, he said.
His first role at the Muny was in “42nd Street” in 2016 – well, actually three, as Mac, Thug and Doctor. He performed several parts in last season’s “Annie” and “Singin’ in the Rain.”
He was cast as Samuel Chase, a representative of Maryland in the Continental Congress, in “1776,” which was a special experience for him.
“I was actually born on the 4th of July, and I’m named after Patrick Henry, so anything patriotic definitely catches my attention. I’ve been a big fan of the movie for many years, and this is my second production, having previously played Lee,” he said.
The Muny’s closing performance of “1776” was on July 3, but because of a rain delay, the actors actually signed the Declaration of Independence on stage on July 4 – very cool because it was not only our real Independence Day, but Patrick’s birthday too.
He was looking forward to working with two-time Tony winner Christian Borle as director of “Footloose,” making his Muny debut. (This interview was done before the show rehearsals had begun).
“Oh my God, I can hardly believe it. I will have to refrain from pinching myself constantly,” he said.
He has ventured out of St. Louis, too, portraying Horton in “Seussical” this spring at the Lyceum Theatre in Arrow Rock, Mo., part of their theater for young audience program.
Being a working actor in St. Louis means side gigs, too. His day job is quite impressive, however, and has gained him national recognition.
He is a professional crossword puzzle constructor, publishing more than 60 in the New York Times, including a week-long contest similar to his Puzzlefests.
He has had work published in USA Today, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Crosswords with Friends and the GAMES magazine.
He is one of the 10 constructors featured in Will Shortz’s Favorite Puzzlemakers. He cohosts the crossword tournament Lollapuzzoola, which takes place in NYC every year on a Saturday in August. He also writes for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.
A proud word nerd growing up, he began his lifelong love of puzzles from the time his mom bought him Mr. Light and his dad shared his Games magazines, he said. The theater bug bit hard in junior high school.
But he didn’t take up solving crosswords until the summer of 2004.
“I quit smoking cigarettes and wanted something else to do with my free hand, so I took up solving. After about a year, I tried to make and sell one, which was much harder than I’d imagined,” he said. “My first puzzle was published by the New York Times on July 21, 2005 (a Thursday).”
He is considered a clever puzzle writer by the industry and fans.
“I just try to make fun puzzles, puzzles that push the envelope and revolve around a theme or gimmick that I would find exciting to discover as a solver. I like to break the crossword rules and surprise solvers or give them a real aha moment,” he said.
You can find more about his work at his website, www.patrickspuzzles.com
QUESTIONS WITH PATRICK BLINDAUER
1. Why did you choose your profession/pursue the arts?
“My first production was ‘Oliver!’ when I was 12, and it was truly a family affair: I played the Artful Dodger, my dad played Fagin, my sister was an orphan, and my mom helped with costumes. I loved the sense of community and the feeling of working together toward a common goal — I still do.’
2. How would your friends describe you?
“Probably as someone who likes to make people smile, whether that means telling a joke or a story, being silly, or giving them my latest crossword to try.”
3. How do you like to spend your spare time?
“As the father of a three-nager, my spare time lately is taken up by playing make believe, going to the park or library, and reading books. I also enjoy letterboxing, which involves following clues and going on hikes to find hand-carved rubber stamps.”
4. What is your current obsession?
“When I’m not in rehearsal or performing, I’m constructing crossword puzzles for newspapers, various clients, or my website: patrickspuzzles.com.”
5. What would people be surprised to find out about you?
“I was a professional magician when I was a teenager, and I still love to do tricks with coins or a deck of cards.
6. Can you share one of your most defining moments in life?
“Being present at the birth of my daughter was the most incredible thing. She has made my life richer and fuller than I ever thought possible.”
7. Who do you admire most?
“My wife, Rebecca–she is so funny and caring and thoughtful. I’m very lucky to have found her, and she makes me a better person every day.”
8. What is at the top of on your bucket list?
“Going into outer space is a dream of mine–astronauts need theatre, too, right?”
9. What is your favorite thing to do in St. Louis?
“Visiting the Magic House or the City Museum with my wife and kiddo.”
10. What’s next?
“My wife and I will both be in “Footloose,” where we will be playing husband and wife.
And “Mary Poppins” at Variety.
MORE ABOUT PATRICK:
Name: Patrick Blindauer
Current location: Ballwin, Mo.
Family: daughter Magnolia
Education: BFA from Webster University
Day job: Crossword constructor and Dad
First job: Fry Guy at Red Lobster
First role: Artful Dodger in “Oliver!”
Favorite roles/plays: Horton in “Seussical,” Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz”
Dream role/play: King George in “Hamilton,” Nostradamus in “Something Rotten!”
Awards/Honors/Achievements: One of Will Shortz’s 10 favorite puzzlemakers
Favorite quote/words to live by: “All the world’s a stage…”
A song that makes you happy: “Happy,” by Pharrell Williams