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Reflecting on an illustrious career: Allen Fitzpatrick closes 27th show at 5th Avenue Theatre

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Something's Afoot — Photo by Mark Kitaoka  

The whodunit comedy Something's Afoot, Allen Fitzpatrick's 27th show with the 5th Avenue Theatre, closed March 24, but his career certainly hasn't. In fact, those runs are only one of its interesting aspects.

Before living in Seattle, Fitzpatrick spent seven years in New York, followed by seven to eight in Philadelphia. He originally intended to stay in Philadelphia, having joined the Screen Actors Guild and found his niche as a character actor, but he auditioned for an unpaid showcase that led to him getting an agent — and a spot in a Broadway show.

"Once you get your first Broadway show, it creates some kind of momentum, and you're able to get other Broadway shows," Fitzpatrick said.

From 1991 to the early 2000s, his career consisted of productions on and off Broadway. After being cast in seven on Broadway, in 2005, he was invited to Seattle by David Armstrong to play Sweeney Todd at the 5th.

"I didn't know what Seattle was, as a city with its own particular personality, and I'd never heard of the 5th Avenue Theatre either, but I said, 'Sure,'" Fitzpatrick recalled. He added that the production was a red-letter experience in his career, and it earned him a Seattle Times "Footlight Award" for Stellar Performance.

"I think it's a fantastic piece of material. It was a really great fit for me as a vocalist and as an actor. We did a tremendous production — kind of legendary. It was such a wonderful experience. I found Seattle particularly to be a great place," Fitzpatrick said.

He's since worked in Seattle for the past decade, teaching acting on top of playing characters and directing for Key City Public Theatre in Port Townsend.

"It was a great experience to return to the 5th Avenue, which had always felt more like a theater home than any place I've ever worked before," Fitzpatrick said of Something's Afoot. "There was a family of actors whom they liked to hire. They were very, very good at it, in terms of being faithful to that."

Solo show
As Fitzpatrick recovers from Something's Afoot, he's been working on marketing solo shows, as the artistic director at Key City had encouraged him to run one. He initially found the task frightening, but he debuted his solo Christmas Carol at Aspire Repertory Theatre in 2021, then brought it to Key City.

"As challenging as it was to learn an hour or an hour and twenty minutes' worth of nonstop material, I really embrace the challenge. It was really thrilling to know that every choice that was going to be made was coming from me," Fitzpatrick said. "That's extremely liberating."

Right now, he's putting out feelers with as many venues as possible about hosting the show again. He's also planning to market his solo adaptation of Great Expectations.

Outside of his acting, Fitzpatrick is looking forward to somewhat of a break. He says most actors try to work six months out of the year, so they'll be eligible for six months of unemployment benefits. The pandemic changed that dramatically, and he says this is the first time in three years he'll be able to collect those benefits.

"It's a great luxury to go, 'I don't have to worry about if there's another show coming down the pike,'" Fitzpatrick said. "Once the money thing is all settled, I'll still want to work a couple of times a year."

He's also almost able to collect Social Security and pensions that come along with being in actors' unions, which will provide him with more flexibility.

"I think most actors are generally not in the position to say no to an offer, unless they're in the very envious position of having two offers at once," Fitzpatrick said. "When the income is not dependent on getting an offer, then you do have that freedom to say no, which is very empowering."

While he waits to hear some good news about his solo shows, Fitzpatrick's 48-year acting career is still appreciated by Seattle theatergoers.

Reflecting on it, he said, "You get to be so many different people in one lifetime. That was what was appealing to me."