Greek goddesses, gods vamp in musical with backstory
Greek goddesses Pandora, Psyche, Echo and Daphne discover they might not be graduating from Mount Olympus College or attending their senior ball.
Will Cupid help? Or Zeus? Huddle those togas!
That’s the premise of “Resting on Our Laurels,” a witty, funny musical about being a college student during mythical times, scheduled at the Clare Rose Playhouse in Patchogue from Aug. 24-27.
A Sweet Briar College senior class project, the play was written 65 years ago by Mollie McCurdy and Josephine Sibold with music by Keir Henley and Joanne Holbrook Patton. It’s a whimsical, humorous production with melodies reminiscent of Broadway show tunes from the 1940s and 1950s. And not surprisingly, it illustrates that young people then grappled with similar issues today.
This isn’t the first time the play has been presented. Patton, who was a trustee of the then not-for-profit North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, Mass. (now a for-profit theatre), suggested the musical to see if it had merits as a teaching piece. It was; North Shore’s theatre education program took it on with enthusiasm, using college and high school students. Their efforts were chronicled by Patton’s son, filmmaker Ben Patton, in 2007.
Joanne Patton was married to Maj. Gen. George S. Patton, whose father was Gen. Patton, who famously commanded the Third Army to victory across the European theater in World War II. She currently lives at her home on Green Meadows Farm in South Hamilton, Mass. (The show was also performed in June at Stage 284 Mainstage in Hamilton.)
In the 2007 “Resting on Our Laurels” film, Patton explained that Sweet Briar College, a women’s liberal arts school, encouraged the creative arts and each incoming senior class was required to produce its own original play. That meant every student’s involvement.
Patton talked to the Long Island Advance by phone recently, recalling how the show evolved.
“The co-composers were Keir Henley and me,” Patton said. “Keir was a music major and I was an English major and the class elected members to be creators and participants. [It was written by Mollie McCurdy and Josephine Sibold.] We got together in the summer at my parents’ home in Washington, D.C., and spent weeks hanging out around our piano. We included the gods and goddesses we wanted in there, that was part of a course we had all taken, wrote scenes and tried to make it into something that was fun and a little bit of a spoof. Over the weeks, we came up with a written script with classmates who knew music, and cooperation from students regarding costume design, sets, to choreography to participation.”
In the film, Henley joked that for 36 hours, “we stared at each other and then … you would have thought we were the Supremes.”
Classmate Grace Wallace Brown commented that Helen of Troy was really sexy with her Gypsy Rose Lee gestures and sashaying. (The musical “Gypsy” is based on Lee’s life. She performed a tasteful striptease act as well as being an actor, author and playwright.)
There were about 180 in the Sweet Briar class, all involved, Patton explained, and the show was performed that fall before the holidays.
Patton was asked about the beautiful love song, “You’re the One,” she wrote for the show.
“I had met a handsome bachelor Army captain who had just returned several years from Germany and was programmed to join those serving in the Korean War,” she said. “I was not looking for him, he wasn’t looking for me. But he was stationed at Fort Knox, Ky., came through Washington, we met and he persuaded me to leave my composing friends for a date with him. My future husband and I met in June 1951 and the work session was that summer. My classmates said the song was about falling in love with the captain. Echo sings it. My fiancé sat in the audience when the song was presented and the entire senior class was staring at him to see his reaction.”
It must have packed a punch. They were officially engaged by then and Patton married right after college graduation. “We had 52 years of happy marriage with several deployments to Korea and Vietnam,” she said without hesitation. “We had a wonderful life.” They had five children and the major general retired to Green Meadows Farm, turning it into a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, where consumers buy local, seasonal produce directly from a farmer through shares. He died in 2004; his wife now oversees it.
Sister Grace Rowland, executive director of the Clare Rose Playhouse, heard “You’re the One,” when it was sung by the sisters at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Conn., where Patton’s daughter and Rowland’s best friend, Mother Margaret Georgina, serves. The song led to the play at Clare Rose.
“I told the performers, ‘could you imagine a senior class at St. Joseph’s writing a musical?’” Rowland said.
Patton plans to attend the Clare Rose show on Aug. 26.
“Today there are 82 who are still alive,” she said, out of the 180. “Eight made it to our 65th class reunion this past June and came to a performance in Hamilton, Mass. They came from Tennessee, Washington State, Texas.”
Patton is getting the word out but can’t guarantee mass participation from her old group. Still, there’s some hope for those who live in New York and Connecticut.
“I, my daughter [Sister Margaret Georgina] and my son, whose video you saw from 2006, and family members will be there,” she said. “I’ll be delighted if any classmates do come and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
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