With ‘Homeland’ ending, Mandy Patinkin hits the concert trail

Reprinted from Hartford Magazine with permission from Frank Rizzo.

Mandy Patinkin was not allowing any length of time to be saddened by the eighth and final season of the Showtime series “Homeland,” in which he stars with Claire Danes. The 12-episode season begins Feb. 9.

As soon as the filming ended last fall, the Emmy and Tony award-winning actor released his latest album of songs and launched a concert tour to 30 cities, including New Haven where he will perform at the Shubert Theatre on Jan 25.
In “Homeland” Patinkin plays Saul Berenson, the no-nonsense, battle-scarred mentor and father-figure to the character of CIA agent Carrie Mathison, played by Danes.

Q: Do you have a bit of empty nest syndrome following the end of shooting “Homeland”?

A: That’s a good way to describe it. I think I wisely planned this concert tour so I wasn’t overwhelmed by the end of this eight-year journey with an extraordinary group of people and a show that introduced me to the work I now do with refugees — and so many other things that have had a profound effect on my life. So needless to say it was bittersweet.

But we were all ready to move on, though it was also a deeply moving experience in those last days and moments with each other. It was very emotional for all of us. But now I have music to rescue me from something that was such a huge part of my life, and it was just time to — as the Stephen Sondheim song says — “move on.”

Q: Since the retirement of your longtime musical director Paul Ford, you’ve been working with new people.

A: I’m working with Thomas Bartlett, and he literally had no show tunes in his bean. And not just that. I said to him at one point, “Can you play me a little bit of ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’?” and he says, “How does that go? I’m from Vermont.” I thought he was putting me on, but he wasn’t.
Thomas gave me 300 songs on Christmas Eve on 2017 — all by singer-songwriters such as Randy Newman, Tom Waits, Lyle Lovett, Rufus Wainwright and Laurie Anderson — and I listened to them all, picking 25 or so that spoke to me lyric-wise. Then we went into his studio and started hitting the record button. We put out a record in October called “Children and Art” [Nonesuch Records; also available for streaming], and that is the focus of the tour. We’ll go back into the studio after the it ends in February and start fooling around again.

Q: What is the touring show like?

A: The concert [with Adam Ben-David accompanying Patinkin on piano] is mainly this new material with some of the old stuff. A lot of crossovers — and cross-unders.

Q: Your last theatrical project was the two-person show “The Last Two People on Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville.” Is there any future for that show with performance artist Taylor Mac, who has since been awarded a MacArthur “genius” grant?

A: I have no idea, I think we both moved on to other things. My guess is that we’ll probably be doing something new rather than something old.

Q: What’s ahead for 2020 now that the obligations of an eight-season series are over?

A: I am purposely leaving my calendar completely free and open after the tour ends to see what I might bump into, meaning not just what I’ve done for some 50 years. It’s also an election year so I want to be free to work myself to the bone for the candidate that I will be supporting right up to Nov. 3.
I will also continue my relationship with the International Rescue Committee and continue my efforts to keep the refugee crisis in the front vision of people all over the world so these people are not forgotten. That is one of the gifts the “Homeland” experience has given me, that began when we were filming in Berlin.

Q: There have been major changes in Broadway since you starred with Patti LuPone in 1979’s “Evita” — and subsequent musical theater roles in “Sunday in the Park With George,” “The Wild Party” and “The Secret Garden.”

A: I want to pound the drum to ask people who are storytellers — whether they be in the musical theater, films, TV, opera, dance or novels — to consider to change their narrative to a more hopeful, optimistic one than the ones in which we are presently engaged. I’m not a fool, meaning I know that terror and violence and hate and “othering” will sell money and will never disappear and will always be front and center. I’m just asking my fellow storytellers to bring up the bar to at least the halfway mark to compete with the narrative that is far more negative. I think the world desperately needs it. There’s a Jewish expression — Tikkun olam — which in Hebrew means “to repair the world.” It’s one thing that the world of art does better than anyone. It shows us how to look at things differently and how to be hopeful and optimistic. As Stephen [Sondheim, composer] and James [Lapine, book writer] said so beautifully at the end of “Sunday in the Park with George,” “So many possibilities.”

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