Press and Sun-Bulletin from Binghamton, New York on October 21, 2010 · 8
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Press and Sun-Bulletin from Binghamton, New York · 8

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Binghamton, New York
Issue Date:
Thursday, October 21, 2010
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8
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8A I PRESS&SUN-BULLETIN LOCAL Thursday, October 21, 2010 'I Exploring the Southern Tier's personalities Patricia Donohue Li r 3 w 4 a f 7 1 i I . -V I r V k . ft V J ill I 111 lifr ..1 .. ; ., v m ' Jll,w -w wm 1 Mum I h;: : MhB & . i r . ? u -t -: m j , VALERIE ZEHLStaff Photo f ( - Patricia Donohue of Binghamton has graced local stages since the early 1950s as both a singer and actress. Love of family kept Binghamton native from pursuing career on the biggest stages By Valerie Zehl vzehlgannett.com Staff Writer You may not recognize her face, but you've heard her name. Or maybe you've seen her act or sing in local productions, but don't know who she is. Whichever way it goes, meet her now: Patricia Donohue, a woman of a certain age which she won't reveal who has graced Greater Binghamton's stages for decades and still occupies them as t iteu as ever. She has her professional performers' Equity card, although most of the money she made didn't come from using her fingertips rather than her tonsils. Donohue rates her thespian skills over her operatic ones although she has sung at La Scala, she slyly interjects. On a tour to Italy, she stood on an empty balcony overlooking the famed stage and sang a few bars, just to say she did. The youngest of 10 in a family that comprised its own orchestra, she graduated from what was then Hallstead High School and became a switchboard operator and receptionist at Kroehler Furniture in Binghamton Then, she moved on to become a telecommunications expert ("glorified switchboard operator") for the federal government in an office at 15 Henry St "Working at a living wasn't my biggest interest," she says. "It was theater." The day job paid the bills; the stage gave the thrills. "The first play I tried out for was The Little Foxes' for Civic Theatre, a wonderful little place on Nowlan Road in Hillcrest" she remembers. "I was about 25 or 26 at the time and was cast as Birdie, the middle-aged, very unhappy, pathetic woman." In the play, Birdie described herself to her niece Alexandra: "I drink, all by myself in my own room, and when they try to hide it, they say 'Birdie's got a headache again."' "After getting my feet wet on a character like Birdie, I never tried out for or would be chosen to portray the 'sweet young thing" parts," Donohue explains. Her favorites were meaty roles, including Blanche DuBois in "Streetcar Named Desire," Alma Winemiller in "Summer and Smoke" and Suzuki in the opera "Madama Butterfly." In some productions she appeared the femme fatale, others were "pants roles" of Nick-lausse in "Tales of Hoffman" and Prince Orlofsky in "Die Fleder-maus" when she flattened her curls to play the male roles. The walls of her Binghamton apartment show photos of her with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, in Robinson Jefferson's "Medea," in "Agnes of God" ... mere sampling of parts so numerous she can't name them all anymore without resorting to her many scrapbooks. Portraits of Tri City Opera founders Carmen Savoca and Peyton Hibbitt hang there, too. Their open arms welcomed her to that nascent company shortly after its conception in 1949, and they encouraged her to pursue acting at Washington University. "She was a good singer but a phenomenally good actress," Hib-bett says. "When she did 'Medea', the Greek tragedy, she moved me to tears. I always felt bad she didn't get to New York City to audition." She's still a great actress today, he adds. Donohue cites family obligations for having precluded that path in life. Under the circumstances, there was no other decision she could make, she says. She never married or had children but took care of her mother, her biggest fan. "I could read the alphabet and she'd say it was the most marvelous thing she ever heard," Donohue says. ... . , " Then she laughs, a merry sound recognizable to anyone who has ever known her. The late Savoca guided her to r polish her innate talent, and she hails him still as a genius. Before long Donohue's powerful mezzo-soprano voice joined those filling the TCO's space in the Masonic Hall on Main Street in Binghamton. She became a regular on other local and regional stages including Susquehanna Players, SRO, Roberson Two Rivers theater, Cider Mill playhouse and Theatricks by Starlight and soon beyond New York's borders into other states as well Audiences numbered in the dozens or hundreds rather than thousands, but she relished them alL "I always said I'd get to the Met," she deadpans. "But I meant the Metropolitan Insurance Company." She's a staple with the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier's Fundamental Follies and Mental Health Players, which will offer their annual presentation Thursday. Director Brian O'Connell remembers the first year he worked with her, just before the curtain opened for their inaugural time on the TCO stage on Clinton Street "She wrote a poem and read it just before opening night," he says. "It included everybody in the performance in it." Now, he calls her "one of my favorite people." Bob Ruane Jr. of Endwell has performed with her since MHAST's "Sanity Island" in 2003. "She knows a lot but doesn't want to lord it over us," he says. "Her voice is soothing" and she has a calming effect on the nervous actors. T Mary Kaminsky has known her since they both lent their energy to Lourdes Hospice, and now at the Southern Tier AIDS Program. "She's passionate about what and who she believes in," says Kaminsky, who's now director of development for STAP. "She always headed up our holiday caroling at Hospice She's got more energy than most teens." A Star on the Walk of Fame in Binghamton honors Donohue's contribution to local arts. Regrets? She has a few. "I do regret that I couldn't go on and make a living in the theatre," Donohue admits. "But you can't saw sawdust, and as long as I can create, that's a wonderful thing to be able to do. I find great joy in living and in doing what I do." Donohue still does her one-woman shows "The Belle of Amherst" based on life of poet Emily Dickinson and "Solo Flight," the story of Jeannette Pic- Tl Photos Provided Above: Donohue performing a one- M woman snow canea l 'SoloFliaht'a decade ago in front of a cathedral in Syracuse. Left: Donohue with ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummy, Charlie McCarthy, when the pair came to Bingamton in 1963. BIO Name: Patricia Donohue Age: "I never tell" Hometown: Originally Hallstead, Pa., i now Binghamton Occupation: Retired Lifelong preoccupation: Volunteer ac- tress and singer Favorite music: Classical ("anything but ; rock") Favorite movie: Now Voyager What issues most raise her blood pressure: Money funneled away from domestic issues into distant invasions; prejudice against those who are not like ourselves; the environment if we don't turn this thing around, nothing else will matter. Favorite possession: My mother's wedding ring, which I wear all the time. Worst phobia: Cats and dogs. Best advice about life: Whatever you want, make it your be-all and end-all and , don't let anything sidetrack you from pursuing it. Go with your heart and follow your passion. Favorite quote: From Emily Dickinson: "If I can stop brie heart from breaking1 shall not live in vainIf I can ease one life the achingOr cool one painOr help one fainting robin Unto his nest againI shall not live in vain." IF YOU GO See Patricia Donohue in action as The Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier presents its annual Use J. Fiato Fundamental Follies Theatre Company show on the Tri Cities Opera stage, 315 Clinton St., Binghamton. "Fountain Island" is this year's show, but unlike previous years, it's a onetime-only opportunity. It will take place at 3:30 p.m. Thursday and there's no charge, but they'd appreciate donations. Call (607) 771-8888 to learn more. card, one of the first Episcopal women ordained to the priesthood and the first woman in space, as well as Elizabeth Cady Stanton poetry readings, and many others. "I'm as active in theater now as I ever have been," she says. c QirT Shop 101 West Main St. Endicott (Rt26&17C) 785-0431 (Pharmacy) 754-1542 (Customer Service) www.cornerdrugheaIthmart.com Store Hours: Monday - Friday Saturdays ' 9am 6pm 9am - 3pm jjiigniiatfatittasHa i ' " : 1 Jim Short Hearwood Creek Collection (the LARCiSI Selection in the Southern Tier!) 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