Interview: Actor, singer Mandy Patinkin on the world of performing

It’s not every day that I encounter a person as inspiring as Mandy Patinkin. The clarity with which he speaks about performance is incredible. In the days since our meeting, I have found myself musing over the things he said.

Throughout his career, Patinkin has maintained an on-screen presence while actively pursuing the stage. In 1980, Patinkin won a Tony Award for his role as Che Guevara in the original production of Evita. It was Patinkin’s first role of many on Broadway. He went on to play in Sunday in the Park with George, The Secret Garden, and The Wild Party among others. At present, Patinkin gives regular performances of Yiddish songs and has released an album called Mamoloshen, or mother tongue.

While many actors find the transition between stage and screen challenging, Patinkin sees a deep connection between the two outlets.

“They say that the stage lights are blinding. It’s the opposite of being blind. In my opinion, it opens up the whole world. In that darkness you can see anything that you imagine. You can have anyone come visit you that you imagine. All those souls who you knew or didn’t can be sitting in those seats. I often believe, when I sing my Yiddish concert, that there are six million souls sitting on each other’s laps in those seats, listening to these songs that I’m just in the line of passing down to people. In television I think the same way I do when I’m on stage. The camera is capturing us talking to each other but my mind is imagining an audience of people that I wish to be there. I invite everyone into the room while we’re filming,” said Patinkin.

Patinkin explained that it was musical theater that first drew him into the world of acting. Raised in Chicago, Patinkin’s mother sent him to the Young Men’s Jewish Council Youth Center to take part in a play they were working on.

“The second play I was in was ‘Carousel.’ I remember the man who ran the program was a wonderful fellow who is responsible for my passion in this field and essentially in my life. His name is Robert Kondor, and one day he asked us what the play was about so everybody gave his answers. Then he said, ‘I think it’s about if you love someone tell them.’ I don’t know why, but it hit me like the sun. I thought, ‘I like this.’ And if this is what theater talks about, I like that and I want some more of that.”

Be it in Homeland or on stage, belting alongside Patti Lupone, Patinkin is able to reach through the fourth wall and touch his audience.

“I’m always thinking about the next performance. I spend all my life working on this material, the plays, the songs, the material I get to do. If you come on a given night, I don’t want to let you down. I’m not the genius; I’m just the mailman. I just want to deliver these messages the best I can, in any weather,” he said.

This is part of an article that was originally published in The Jerusaelm Post. To read the full article, click here.