Penn State

Penn State graduate returns to alma mater for ‘dream’ role in ‘The Book of Mormon’

The national tour of “The Book of Mormon” will arrive at the to the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State next week, with seven performances of the Tony Award-winning production.

“The Book of Mormon” — possibly most famously known for its writers, who also worked on the long-running animated series “South Park” — is a boundary-pushing, satirical musical with a heart beneath all the adults-only humor. While theatergoers in Centre County eagerly await the first performance Tuesday, one member of the cast is possibly even more excited for the show to make its State College debut.

Patrick Graver is a 2013 Penn State graduate who plays a number of characters in the show’s Mormon ensemble, including Elder Michaels and Brigham Young. Graver’s previous credits include national tours of “West Side Story” and “Bullets Over Broadway,” and he’s been working consistently since his graduation. Now, with “The Book of Mormon,” he says he’s landed his dream role, something he credits entirely to his time at Penn State.

“‘The Book of Mormon’ is definitely the biggest thing I’ve done, but this has also been my dream. I don’t want to go anywhere. When people ask me what’s next or what’s my ultimate goal, I’m like, this is it. I’m living it. That’s pretty cool to be able to say (and), I’m not just saying this, this is truly because of Penn State, because of the training and my teachers and just the way that the program is set up. It’s really, really fantastic and I have all my teachers to thank for that,” Graver said.

Graver calls his college experience “so much fun” but “also incredibly pivotal to adulthood.” The Lancaster native mentions Penn State’s musical theater department’s professional faculty, nurturing environment, small classes and balance of intensity and one-on-one care all as aspects that have led to his success thus far.

Though he visited Penn State during his “West Side Story” tour, Graver says it was only for one evening, so he’s excited to be back in the area for nearly a week. When he’s not on the stage, he plans to show his fiancé, who’s currently touring with him, his favorite spots around town, including his old campus haunts and — of course — the Penn State Berkey Creamery.

For all the fun awaiting Graver in State College, though, he notes he still has to put his job first while he’s on tour, something that can be difficult when he and his cast mates are expected to perform eight shows a week.

“As cool as it is and amazing as it is to be touring to all of these different cities, ultimately, I need to be thinking about the job first,” he said. “There’s a lot of prep that goes into it.”

Luckily, Graver says that getting into the mindset of his characters is one of the easier and more rewarding parts of his job.

“The missionaries (we play think) everything is awesome and they’re going to change the world. That’s an incredible mantra to live by in general. ... Doing eight shows a week, it gets exhausting, as much as I love the show, so there have been times I’ve been like, oh my gosh, I don’t know if I have it in me to do this, but right when I enter the stage, I’m feeling better, because I just fully embody that mantra that everything is awesome and I’m going to change the world.”

For those considering seeing “The Book of Mormon” during its run at Eisenhower Auditorium, Graver says, “First and foremost, know that it’s (written by) the creators of ‘South Park,’ so take that as you will. There’s some material in there that’s a little over the top and aggressive. But it is a beautiful story about two missionaries who are complete opposites. They’re sent to Uganda and it’s about their journey of finding faith. It really is a beautiful story. I don’t want to give anything away, but ... get ready to laugh.”

You can catch “The Book of Mormon” at Eisenhower Auditorium, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Oct. 12, and 2 p.m. Oct. 12-13. A pre-show ticket lottery takes place before each show, for your chance to win discounted tickets at $25 apiece. Lottery entries are accepted at the box office two and a half hours before each performance. Lottery tickets come in quantities of one or two. Two hours before curtain, lottery winners are announced.

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