About two weeks ago I met my pal Pat Atkins for some evening fun. We used to teach high school together. Pat has since retired, but her avocation is that of character actress. In fact, I’ll bet you’ve seen Pat in Nestle or Hallmark commercials. She’s the kindly matriarch who beams over a cup of tea or whose face floats out of the greeting card. I was teasing Pat about a recent job.
“What role are you playing?”
“Now what do you think I’d be cast as?” Pat purred in her distinctive contralto.
“Let’s see… a grandmother?”
“You guessed it, kiddo.”
But Pat is genuinely grateful for every job. She’s one of the most active, vibrant women you could hope to meet, always up for theatre or a foreign film or an artwalk. I had told Pat I am dating myself in Pasadena, and she replied, “Is that what it’s called? I’ve been doing that for 35 years!”
We agreed to meet at Daisy Mint. This is a small, quirky Asian restaurant that fills up rapidly. Therefore, whoever arrived at 5:25 was to snag a table. Pat captured the flag and we ordered. I chose the spring rolls, which are little hand salads the size of small ice cream cones. The chicken satay, some vegetable dish, the green tea steeping in a glass pot — all of it came together for us as we caught up. The surprise element was a table visit from my old friends Sally and Tracy. They just materialized, and we started talking about the food drive at a local public art spot, the Fork in the Road. Now it may be that I don’t get out enough, but I get the biggest bang out of the occasional small-town confluence that is Pasadena. This was just rich, a little cascade of friends in a cozy public spot, people laughing inside, twilight deepening outside.
Pat and I needed to get to Jameson Brown Coffee Roasters by 7 p.m. We are among a growing number of fanatics for the public readings staged by Parson’s Nose Theatre. About once every six weeks, this South Pasadena troupe gives a lively reading in a nearby coffeehouse. Admission is by reservation; donations are encouraged, but the audience is not browbeaten. Instead, you find yourself so grateful for intelligent hilarity, time after time, that you donate because it is right and meet so to do. Lance Davis and Mary Chalon lead a fine, rapier-witted crew of professional actors. These people interpret classics with zeal and spirit and audacity. I can’t say enough good about them. (I can say that they have a production of The Imaginary Invalid coming to the Pacific Asia Museum on weekends from January 15 to February 12; tickets may be ordered online.) Their work is an absolute delight for all mortals. You need not be a theatre geek to appreciate their talent.
And so, thus went my dinner with Pat and all its commensurate antics. We are heading to Parson’s Nose at the coffeehouse again on December 19 at 7 p.m. for a reading of A Christmas Carol.
Daisy Mint: 1218 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 626.792.2999, daisymint.com
Parson’s Nose Family Theatre, 626.403.7667, parsonsnose.com
Jameson Brown Coffee Roasters: 260 N. Allen Ave., Pasadena, 626.395.7585, jamesonbrown.com
Read more of Jean Gillis’s writing at jeangillis.blogspot.com