East Bay native Patrick Alparone was turned onto theatre as a teenager at Moreau Catholic High School in Hayward, when he was more interested in playing in punk rock bands than acting in plays.
“In high school the drama teacher told me I should audition,” he says. “My girlfriend broke up with me and she said she was going to audition. I was like, I’ll audition, and obviously she will want to get back together with me. We didn’t get back together, but I saw how serious these people were about putting on these stories and playing these characters. And for any high school kid, being anybody else is a welcome vacation.”
His drama teacher encouraged him to pursue acting in college, and he went on to get his bachelor’s in theatre arts at Sonoma State University. When he got out in 2004, he came down to San Francisco in search of acting work.
“I had this idea that I’ll audition but I’m probably not going to get work, so I’ll make my own work,” Alparone recalls. “My plan was to go down to the Financial District at lunchtime and do commedia and pass the hat around.”
His first acting gig after college turned out to be in Egypt, where San Francisco’s Golden Thread Productions was performing in the 2004 Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theatre.
“We took this piece by this banned Egyptian writer about how women are treated in an oppressive society, and there were boycotts and protests and stuff before we even arrived,” Alparone says. “Every time we left the hotel, there was a man with a semiautomatic weapon in his jacket taking us to the theatre. We had these talk-backs and a lot of the men would just stand up and start screaming and had to be escorted out by undercover agents. I remember thinking, ‘I’m about to see a flash of light and the whole theatre’s going to explode, and my mom’s going to get a phone call. Well, if this is it, I’m doing what I love.’”
One turning point early on came in 2006, when Impact Theatre cast Alparone in the role of an angsty young punk named Hamlet.
“I was working at a law firm eight hours a day and at lunchtime jumping in a cab to get over to a commercial audition and changing my pants in the car so that I don’t look like an office person,” he says. “Just before I left I’d call a cab to take me back to work, just eating bagels and donuts, then jump on a train to take me to Berkeley to go to this rehearsal that gets out at 11. I’d barely make it back to my house by one, then I’m trying to do text work on Hamlet. I was like, ‘Okay, something’s got to change.’ So I quit my job to work on Hamlet, and that became a full-time job. I turned into a crazy man, talking to myself on BART going over these monologues. There’s a guy sitting next to me who’s also talking to himself, but I think he’s actually hearing answers.”
After a dry spell that had him ready to pick up and move to New York, Alparone has found his hands in the last few years, including Ambition Facing Westand Twelfth Night at TheatreWorks, A Streetcar Named Desire at Marin Theatre Company, Steve Yockey’s Octopus at the Magic and Skin at the Climate, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at SF Playhouse and, most recently, the world premiere of Mrs. Whitney at the Magic.
“The last couple years it’s been really good, and also roles where I’ve been able to do something other than ‘angsty white guy,’” he says. “I really like doing fresh, brand-new stuff. That or fishing. Getting out of college that was my dream job, that I would get out of the show, go out to sea and fish, and be back in time to do the show again. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. I’m a horrible fisherman.”