Interview: Mandy Patinkin Talks BEING ALIVE Concert Tour, Becoming a TikTok Star, If He'd Return to Broadway & More

Mandy shares his philosophy of leaving the door open to possibilities, getting the world to know the woman he loves, and more.

By: Jan. 11, 2023
Interview: Mandy Patinkin Talks BEING ALIVE Concert Tour, Becoming a TikTok Star, If He'd Return to Broadway & More
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Mandy Patinkin is one of the world's biggest stars of theatre, film, television... and TikTok.

Mandy won a Tony Award for his 1980 Broadway debut as Che in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita, and was nominated in 1984 for his role as George in the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, Sunday in the Park with George. He has starred in some of the most iconic films of all time including The Princess Bride, Yentl, Dick Tracy, and many, many more.

His television career is just as legendary. Mandy won a 1995 Emmy Award for his performance in the CBS series Chicago Hope, and has starred in shows such as The Good Fight, Criminal Minds, Dead Like Me, Homeland and more. Mandy also has had a long and successful career as a recording and concert artist.

But, what Mandy Patinkin appears to be most passionate about is activism, and family, both of which he has had the opportunity to take part in and showcase through social media, a surprising highlight which came into his life via his son, Gideon, during quarantine in 2020.

BroadwayWorld spoke with the legendary performer about his upcoming series of concerts entitled 'Being Alive', what it means to connect with young people through social media, and much more!

Mandy, you are an icon, you're known for film, TV, theatre, and you've done many, many live concerts and tours. What do you love most about performing in the concert format?

Interview: Mandy Patinkin Talks BEING ALIVE Concert Tour, Becoming a TikTok Star, If He'd Return to Broadway & More

It's absolutely my most favorite thing to do of all the things I'm privileged to get to do, because of its immediacy, and that immediacy is defined by the audience, coupled with the day and the moment itself. We are only doing it for the audience. If I'm rehearsing by walking down the path by the road by myself, and going over the material, if I'm rehearsing in my studio with Adam [Ben-David], nothing compares to even if just one person comes in and sits in on the rehearsal. We come to life. Because that's who we're doing it for, not ourselves, but for others. And so, the audience makes the difference, and the immediacy of the theatre and the concert world is everything that film and television do not have, that only the concert world and the theatre possess, which is the audience.

This concert tour is called Being Alive. Why did you decide to call it Being Alive, and what can audiences expect to see and hear?

My previous concert was called Diaries, and it was constructed before the pandemic, and we were all going through some dark times in various ways, from political, to climate, to planet, to human suffering, and I guess some of that darkness seeped into the planning of the last concert. And then the pandemic hit, and we all have been living through that, and the moment came where it was like, "Hey, do you want to go back on the road and start doing this again? Are we all ready?" "Yeah, okay, let's see what we can put together."

And then I said to Adam, "Hey, look, the last one was too dark, I need a happy time. I need to recover from what we've all been through. I need to be happy. I need to feel alive. So let's just go through 13 hours of material over 30-some years, and just start looking for the happiest road we can pave." And we start with one song, "Okay, this works, this is a good way to start, what could follow this? Okay, this one." And eventually we get up to an hour and a half worth of material, and we go, "This feels pretty good, I'm enjoying this." And I really constructed it so that I would have fun. I needed to have fun, I need to have fun, I need to recover, as we all do from all that we've been going through, and continue to go through. And so, that's how this one got birthed, and that's how it got named as well. To be alive, from all of us spending too much time not being alive for three years.

Audiences are so excited to see you! You have had the opportunity to sing so many beautiful songs throughout your career. Do you have a favorite song to perform?

It's interesting, I don't have a favorite song, because when I put my evenings together, the whole evening is what I would call "the song". Another person would call it a song-cycle, sure, that's what I mean. But I also mean that all the different songs I put together, I don't know how many that make up the evening, they are one song that is expressing, and the question is, "What is it expressing? Is it expressing being alive?" "Yeah." "How is it doing that? Is it a very serious song?" "Well, some of the songs in the one song are serious, some are silly, some are fun, some are entertaining, just pure entertainment, some are more thoughtful." "Do you sing Being Alive?" "Yeah, I sing it." "So, isn't that your most favorite song?" "No! It's not my most favorite song." "Well, why did you name it that?" I say, "It just happens to marry itself to the larger goal, which is to feel alive! To feel connected."

And to do what my best friend said before he died, my dear friend Mark Harrington, who kept himself alive until my wife Kathryn and I got by his bedside. And he got two spoonfuls of morphine and sat up in bed, and looked at these two cuckoo friends of his, Kathryn and Mandy, and said these two words, "Have fun," and then he laid back down and soon after he was gone from us, but he didn't leave us, his body left. And those two words he said have been my laser beam guidance system of where I'm trying to be, and arrive to, and stay on that path and keep walking toward having fun. And I would couple it with being alive, however that manages to manifest itself.

You spoke about the pandemic, and coming out of a dark time into a lighter time, and you made everyone's quarantine so much brighter with your videos with your wife and son. How did that feel for you becoming a TikTok star and making that difficult time so much brighter for so many people?

It contributed to forming this particular concert, Being Alive. I take no credit for all those social media things, it's all my son, Gideon. The way it came about was, he was worried about his folks at the beginning of the pandemic, and he came home to be with us, which we loved, and he often, even before the pandemic, would take out his phone, and ask us questions, and say, "Family archives," and we'd answer the questions. So, this day that he comes home, in front of the forsythia tree, he says, "So, how are you guys doing?" and the day before was our 44th or 43rd anniversary, and we had a fight that day. And so, we started talking about the fight.

He says to us the next day, "That was pretty fun to watch, and listen to, and record, I think people would like that!" And we went, "Oh, you're crazy." He said, "No, I really do, can I put it on social media?" Now, I birthed that social media to bring the refuge crisis, and the International Rescue Committee's work to the attention of as many people that would tune in to the social media as possible, and to help make the awareness greater of the refugee crisis. And nothing goes on that site without me giving the ok, but I don't know how to upload and download. So I said to him, "I don't know how to do that." And he said, "Don't worry, I know how." And he puts it out there, and it goes ballistic, it goes viral.

It became like a job! We started doing them constantly, and then, getting out the vote, and all the other social, political needs that were on the table for people who had a large platform. We started realizing "Who are we not to continue doing these that are making people happy?" Even if they're laughing at us, or thinking that we're nuts, it's seeming to be a break from the exhaustion of other aspects of life that we continue to live through every day, and will forever.

Our son taught us the most important lesson of all, which my friend Mark tried to teach, which was to have fun. And then he showed us a way to do it. The other thing, since I met my wife, Kathryn, in 1978, I've been trying to get the world to know the woman I know. And I couldn't find a way to get her to go do this, or go do that, because she had her own agenda. And I wanted the world to know her. I felt she'd be good for the world. And I'll be gosh-darned, my son Gideon got the world to know his mom and my wife in the way that I've always dreamed of. And that was a gift I'd always been working for, and he made it come true.

How does it feel for you both to know that you're connecting with so many young people now because of social media?

It's pretty incredible. I remember during the campaign for an election early on in the pandemic, we were doing a virtual benefit, a fundraiser. And Ruth Messinger was in on it, and all of these people were talking, and then Ruth gets on, and you have hundreds of people on the Zoom, and she says, "Let me tell you guys something, you're missing something here," It was all about trying to get people to vote. She said, "You're missing the younger people, the younger generation, you're not getting them."

Well, my son Gideon hears this, and his partner and collaborator, Ewen Wright, hears it with him, and the next day they said to Kathryn and me, "Listen, we're going to ask you to do some stuff that you're going to think we're insane about. We're going to ask you to do some pretty crazy stuff, and just trust us. Will you please just trust us?" And what that stuff was, were these things that they wanted us to do for this thing called TikTok. Well, we did what they asked, and the next day, within no time, we had a million followers on TikTok. It was crazy.

And then we started getting the TikTok people, these kids, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, to get their family members, their relatives, their aunts, uncles, family members, neighbors, to register to vote that didn't do it. And there were a lot of efforts like we were doing, all over the country because the most precious gift we have in this democracy, fragile as it is, is the strength and power of our single vote. And to be in a country where you have the freedom to express your voice and not use it is like the crime of original sin. And so, I don't care if you're a Republican, Democrat, or Independent, I need you to vote, to register to vote, and express your opinion. We need to work together to find ways to improve the human condition at home in America, and all over the world where our abilities and care for humanity, and kindness for our fellow human being, can be activated and appreciated.

Jumping back to a performance question, would you ever like to come back to Broadway?

I keep every door that's available to me open, I look at every project as a possibility, andInterview: Mandy Patinkin Talks BEING ALIVE Concert Tour, Becoming a TikTok Star, If He'd Return to Broadway & More I'm interested in everything. And so, if the right thing, whatever it would be, for a theatre anywhere in the world or on Broadway, knocked on my door... you can't be certain of anything, all of you have is your experience and your instincts, and then you have to just take the leap of faith, and take the risk and see how it comes out. It's all about the unknown and the chemistry, you don't know what's going to happen on a million levels. But there is nothing I say no to, and my door is open to anything and everything, and I look forward to the next thing I haven't even thought about yet.

That's how absolutely everything in my life has taken place, including this thing we were just talking about, social media. If you told me something like this would have happened, I would have said "You're crazy." If you told me that when I was a young kid and wanted to be an actor, that because of being an actor and being known in certain circles for being an actor, I would help to get people to register to vote, I'd get to help people learn about refugee crises, and raise money to give people a new beginning, just like my grandparents and ancestors had when they were welcomed to America, that I'd get to be a part of helping to share their voices... you're crazy, I never imagined that was a possibility. And it's defined this part of my life!

When you leave the door open to things, you leave it open to wonderful possibilities.

Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, it was actually Lapine's words, the last words in Sunday in the Park with George, "So many possibilities." My son gave me a piece that hangs in my office in the piano room where I live, and it's a frame, and it's a beautiful white canvas that's blank, and on the back it says, "So many possibilities." So all we have to do is remember to say yes to all the possibilities, open the door, and meet them, and then make the choice.

Being Alive Tour Dates

January 14, 2023

The State Theater

January 21, 2023

Capitol Center for the Arts

January 25, 2023

Byers Theatre at Sandy Springs PAC

January 26, 2023

Mandy Patinkin & Kathryn Grody
Congregation B'nai Israel

January 28, 2023

Music Center at Strathmore

February 2, 2023

Proctors Theatre

February 4, 2023

Playhouse on Rodney Square

February 7, 2023

Strand Theater

February 9, 2023

Zeiterion Performing Arts Center

February 11, 2023

Tarrytown Music Hall

February 14, 2023

Mandy Patinkin & Kathryn Grody
McCarter Theatre Center

February 16, 2023

Van Wezel Performing Arts Center

February 18, 2023

Union Co. Performing Arts Center