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From the Playwright: Ted Swindley talks about “Always…Patsy Cline”

by Stages Repertory Theatre on June 16, 2017

As the creator and writer of Always...Patsy Cline and the founding artistic director of Stages, I am overwhelmed with great happiness to be back home again with this stellar production of the show that has given so much joy to thousands of  people all over America and beyond. (Even now the play is enjoying its second national tour of Australia!). It is so very hard for me to believe that you are experiencing this enduring  piece of musical theatre  on the very same stage  where it came to life in its very first performances. 

The year was 1988, and, not surprisingly, it was a very long, hot summer in Houston. The city was in the midst of a severe economic downturn and Stages was barely surviving. Two months before this show opened, the theatre’s air conditioning system had ceased working and performances of our current shows had to be cancelled. It is an understatement to say that it was a very difficult moment in the theatre’s young history (it was our 10th anniversary season). 

Well, as the old saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” In our case, “Desperation was the mother of creation!” I wracked my brain to come up with a small show that might have large audience appeal, and so I contacted one of Stages’ talented musical theatre performers who for two years had been requesting that I do a show about Patsy Cline. Knowing the appeal of country music but being virtually void of knowledge about the popular musical genre, I asked her,”WHO IN THE HELL IS PATSY CLINE?” (A line you will hear in the play at this performance.)

During that hot and humid summer, I sat in my mercifully cool Montrose apartment one weekend and familiarized myself with Patsy by listening for hours to her recordings, and I became an instant fan of her remarkable talent. I knew that a show about this country music icon was the answer for which I was looking. But I had only about 3 weeks to put something together. I did not want to do just a musical revue, nor did I have the time to manufacture a complicated biographical musical, so I asked myself probably the most important question of my lifetime: “Did Patsy Cline ever perform in Houston?” And so with very little research we found this wonderful true story of Louise Seger’s chance meeting with Patsy in 1961 at the Esquire Ballroom, a honky tonk on the Hempstead Highway,  and their subsequent close friendship.

At the close of the published interview with Louise in a Patsy biography, she shares the first letter that she received from Patsy in what became a regular and intimate correspondence between the two until Patsy’s untimely death in 1963. Patsy’s letter read at the conclusion of the play which shows the country star’s wonderful humanity touched me greatly, as did the powerful friendship that developed between these two strong women over one evening in our city, and I was inspired to create the show that you see now.

The play opened on July 22 of that year and was a sell-out hit which ran for 5 wonderful months! The show literally saved Stages!  Now all these years later, as a testament to the brilliance of the timeless music and voice of Patsy Cline and to the power of true love and friendship, as well as the belief in the simple word “always”, it is my hope that this little musical with a huge heart which belongs to our magnificent city will bring you as much joy as it did to those audiences who first saw it way back in 1988. Thank you, Houston! Thank you, Stages! And welcome home, Patsy!