A GoPride Interview

Heather Beck

Heather Beck: I have great respect for her because she did all kinds of different music including gospel and pop.

Thu. March 1, 2012  by Michael J. Roberts

I have great respect for her because she did all kinds of different music including gospel and pop.
Heather Beck

Heather Beck on her role as Patsy Cline, one of the most iconic voices in music

Pasty Cline possessed one the most iconic voices in music. She soared to fame with such hits as "Crazy", "I Fall to Pieces" and "Walking After Midnight" and is considered the first female to gain such popularity in country music. Tragically, Patsy was killed at age 30 in an airplane crash, but in that short time left a legacy that is still felt in the music industry today. Pasty's story is told in "Always….Patsy Cline" now on stage at Theatre at The Center. I spoke with Heather Beck, who brings Patsy back to life in this amazing production.

MJR: (Michael J. Roberts) Hi Heather, it is great to talk with you. Tell me about the impact that Patsy Cline had on country music?

HB: (Heather Beck) Well, she was the first woman to gain any type of stance in the country music world. She was very competitive and wouldn't take no for an answer. More than that she had this clear and

powerful iconic voice that had a huge impact on people. Patsy put her heart and soul in every song that she sang and you could certainly see that in her. Every word that she said, she meant. She didn't just sing country, but that is where she got her start. Her passion, drive and desire are present not just in country music but the industry as a whole.

MJR: What is your approach to playing Patsy Cline and how did you go about dissecting the character?

HB: The first thing I did was to get c.d. sets and listen to her sing and then I watched videos of her performing and how she built a relationship with her audience. I listened to her speak and got her voice patterns down as well as how she stood and carried herself. Then I looked at the person she was. She was a great mother to her children and I wanted to explore how her fame affected her being with her kids. She was also in a very abusive relationship with her second husband and had a lot of heartache at home that translated into her music.

I just really wanted to see where she came from and how that impacted her music. Then I bring that to the stage.

MJR: That is the great dichotomy of Patsy Cline is that she suffered such abuse at home but never let it affect her public life.

HB: Absolutely, but you could definitely tell in the songs she was singing. I think that was how she dealt with it was through her music. It became much darker.

MJR: What have you learned from playing Patsy Cline?

HB: I certainly get a since of her strength. I have great respect for her because she did all kinds of different music including gospel and pop. There is also the love. She loved and was loved by so many people; I think I really have taken that with me as a performer playing her. It is really rewarding, I have played this role quite a few times now and that I can give Patsy back to the audience and let them rediscover how immensely talented she was is an honor. She was a powerful go-getter and that has certainly rubbed off on me.

MJR: What is your relationship like with our director and how do you keep the performance from not being just an impersonation?

HB: Well, for this Michael, I came into the process a bit late because I was a last minute replacement. But Brian Russell had great trust in me. Because I played the part before he let me find my space and inspiration and dynamics in the song. There is a lot of give and take and trial and error but it has been great.

MJR: Who are your musical influences?

HB: That is tough. I came from a Broadway background, and I went to school for musical theatre performance so those are the performers that shaped me. Linda Eder is one of my absolute favorites!

MJR: Since you have played this role on numerous occasions, how has the performance changed or evolved?

HB: A lot more things locked in. Sometimes when I am on stage I feel like I get lost in her. It is kind of a surreal experience and I feel I am Patsy sometimes. The more I do it, the more she becomes a part of me. I will always have a connection with her because of it.

MJR: What do you want people to know about Patsy?

HB: I just want everybody to know what a remarkable person Pasty Cline was. I never would have thought that Patsy would have been my path in life but I am grateful for her and for the chance to play her.

"Always…Patsy Cline" plays through April 1st at Theatre at the Center.

For more information, including tickets and showtimes please visit Theatre At The Center. You can also visit Theatre At The Center on Facebook.


Interviewed by Michael J. Roberts. Michael J. Roberts is theatre editor for the ChicagoPride.com covering Chicago's diverse arts and entertainment scene.