10 Qs: Playwright passionate about children’s theater

A resident of Leucadia, Pat Lydersen is a published playwright and the artistic director of the children’s theater company The Park Dale Players. With a master’s degree in theatre from Penn State University and over 40 years experience as an actress, director, teacher and playwright, she worked in children’s theater in Denver, New York and Kansas City before moving to Encinitas in 1985.

In that year, she co-founded the Park Dale Players, which has become a fixture in the North County children's theater scene. Beginning as a company of adults performing original plays for children and teaching drama workshops in the schools, The Park Dale Players started a student musical theater program in the Encinitas Union School District in the fall of 1999.

They now run both after-school and intersession programs throughout the district, producing original plays written by Lydersen, with music by composer Wendy Woolf. Lydersen’s plays (and her musicals in collaboration with Woolf) have been published and produced throughout the nation, as well as Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

For more information about the Park Dale Players, please go to www.theparkdaleplayers.com.

1. What brought you to Encinitas?

My husband Ken and I had moved around quite a bit during the early years of our marriage — Rochester N.Y., Penn State for grad school, Denver (where all our kids were born), Corning N.Y., Kansas City. While we were in Kansas, Ken went to a scientific meeting in San Diego. During a break in the meeting, he went to Torrey Pines for a hike. Several years later Hybritech, a biotech company with offices just across the road from Torrey Pines, offered him a job. He jumped at it — how could you turn down a job across the road from Torrey Pines! We bought a house in Encinitas and have been here ever since — over 30 years!

2. If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in Encinitas?

I would add a theater/arts center. Jim Gilliam, the arts administrator for Encinitas, and others have been working to create a Center for the Arts at the old Pacific View Elementary School. This will be a place that local artists from all fields (theater included) can use. It will be an amazing addition to the city of Encinitas!

And I would add an island with trees and flowers down the center of the Coast Highway 101 through downtown Encinitas. Instead of four lanes through town, why not have two (one each way) with a grassy floral island in between? Who needs wide expanses of asphalt through the middle of town?

3. Who or what inspires you?

Our Park Dale Player kids and Monty Python! Every time we do one of our plays, I’m almost brought to tears watching the kids’ faces beam as they take their bows. I create the characters in my plays specifically to be played by child actors. I want them to be able to identify with their characters and to enjoy playing them. This drives the kind of plays that I write.

I also have been a Monty Python fan for years. I love their quirky sense of humor and use it as much as I can in my plays. I want my plays to be enjoyed by all ages, adults and children alike, and I think that kind of humor plays to everyone!

4. If you hosted a dinner party for eight, who (living or deceased) would you invite?

That’s a hard one. I would definitely invite my parents who have been gone now for some years. Then, of course, I’d want my husband and children there. That makes seven! Can I make it a larger party? If so, I’d love to have a variety of historical figures come back to life to be there. I remember that many years ago Steve Allen had a show on PBS called Meeting of the Minds where he had characters like Genghis Khan, Gandhi, Einstein, or Anne Boleyn get together for a discussion around a table. It made for very interesting conversations!

5. What are your favorite movies?

I think my favorite movie of all time is A Thousand Clowns. I love Jason Robards’ character of Murray Burns, the unemployed children’s comedy writer who is battling to keep custody of his 11-year-old nephew, Nick.

The dialogue in the play is perfect — mostly funny, but heart-wrenching at times. How wonderful is this line that Murray says about Nick: "I want him to know the subtle, sneaky, important reason why he was born a human being and not a chair." When the irrepressible Murray finally concedes and, briefcase in hand, goes back to work for Chuckles the Chipmunk, you want to cry but applaud him at the same time.

6: What’s the most challenging aspect of what you do, and what’s the most rewarding?

The most challenging part of what I do is making sure our students have fun and also learn a lot from their experience with The Park Dale Players. The most rewarding part of what I do is seeing them having fun and learning a lot from their experience!

7: What do you do for fun?

My husband and I are really into long distance bicycle touring. Among other rides, we’ve ridden across the country from our house in Leucadia to St. Augustine, Florida, and up the Atlantic coast from Florida to Bar Harbor, Maine. We’ve also toured all over Europe. Last year we toured the Scottish Highlands in 30-degree weather, rain, hail, snow and wind – yep, we think that’s fun! I also love to play tennis, and play in a doubles league, which has matches at different clubs around the area.

8: What is it that you most dislike?

I dislike children’s plays, movies, or television shows that talk down to their audience. Children are capable of so much more than some people give them credit for!

9: What do you hope to accomplish next?

I guess I’d like to write another play, and then another one, and then another. Every time I finish a play, I wonder if that’s it, if that’s the last good idea I’m ever going to have.

10: What is your motto or philosophy of life?

Be creative, be involved, be kind and have fun.

10 Questions is an Encinitas Advocate feature spotlighting interesting people in the community.

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