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Performing Art
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009 8 years ago

Stage might

by: Heidi Kurpiela Contributing Writer

Patty Snyder-Atkins has two offices in Sarasota. In one office she is alone at a computer, surrounded by blueprints for future Coach stores, the luxury handbag chain found in malls across the country.

In another office she is surrounded by restless actors, scribbled-on walls, fly rails and curtains.

In one office you could hear a pin drop. In the other, you need a microphone to be heard.

Snyder-Atkins, 51, appreciates the difference between her day job and her night job. Employed by a contracting firm in an industrial park off U.S. 301, Snyder-Atkins spends her days in a brightly lit room, answering occasional phone calls, scheduling jobs and estimating retail construction projects.

When her shift is through, she heads downtown to The Players Theatre, where she has worked for 12 years as the company’s stage manager, auditioning actors, overseeing rehearsals and running live performances from a backstage podium and wobbly stool.

Snyder-Atkins also runs rehearsals at the Banyan Theater Company, a gig she took three years ago when she had more free time. Between the two theaters, she has been in steady rehearsals and shows since March.

“It’s just multi-tasking and patience,” she says. “When people meet me, they’re surprised that I’m such a calm person. I tell them, ‘Well, you can’t blow up at volunteers!’”

In a business built on drama, Snyder-Atkins is refreshingly even-tempered.

“I’ll holler, but not scream,” she jokes. “Once you understand how to relate to yourself, people relate to you.”

The anti-drama queen has honed her flair for theatrics not by throwing tantrums, but by working well under pressure and solving backstage dilemmas with common sense and quick wit.

At The Players Theatre, Snyder-Atkins is affectionately known as “The Rainmaker,” a nickname the cast of “Singin’ in the Rain” bestowed upon her in 1999, after Snyder-Atkins rigged plastic tubing and gutters to create onstage drizzle during the show’s signature song-and-dance act.

“We had a storm that night, so there was rain going on outside and inside at the same time,” says Snyder-Atkins, who humbly confesses to being the first stage manager in the theater’s 79-year history to make it pour on stage.

Born into a military family, Snyder-Atkins spent her childhood moving from state to state, a reality that forced her to make friends easily.

“I determined a long time ago that the quality of your communication determines the quality of your life,” says Snyder-Atkins, who, as a child, tap-danced with “Tony Grant’s Stars of Tomorrow” on the famed Steel Pier, in Atlantic City, N.J. “If you think about everything you do in your job and in your personal life, it all comes down to communication.”

She moved to Sarasota as a teenager after her father retired from the Air Force in 1972. In the early 1990s she founded an after-school, performing-arts program for at-risk children using community outreach funds from the U.S. Department of Justice. The program, which Snyder-Atkins ran out of a police substation in Gillespie Park, grabbed the attention of The Players’ former stage manager, Betty Frostad, who, at the time, needed a parking lot attendant and follow-spot operator.

“Patty has done everything from clean bathrooms to run light-and-sound cues,” says Jeffery Kin, the theater’s artistic director.

Snyder-Atkins laughs and seconds Kin’s statement.

“I can make you a wedding cake out of Styrofoam and duct tape,” she chirps. “Or set a vacuum cleaner to blow up using a radio-controlled truck.”

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