Ever hear that saying “One thing leads to another?” In Flying Anvil’s case we’ll modify it to “One person leads to another.” We first met Pook Pfaffe last spring via Eileen Conway. After one meeting (where Pook confessed to being slightly nervous to coming to a gathering where she didn’t know anyone) we said – “Damn, woman, we’re not letting you leave!” Pook has been our generous photographer, filmographer, graphic help and all around amazing support. In other words, she’s a gift. In honor of the twelve days of Christmas – and in recognition of her many talents – we’ve asked Pook twelve questions.
1. How did you get involved in theatre?
I always wanted to perform. I was raised by my grand-parents and they went to the movies quite often. All genres. As a child, I would climb onto the ash pit in their yard and sing Judy Garland songs to the empty alley. In high school I performed in two plays, Our Town and You Can’t Take it With You. (I played the drunken actress, Gay Wellington. Oddly enough I played that same role 2 more times, in regional theatre in St. Louis in the 80s and then again at Surflight Theatre in the 2000s) After high school, I began working with a community theatre in St. Louis, Southtown Players, in my free time, while working as a ward clerk at Barnes Hospital by day.
2. What is your earliest theatre memory?
Sitting in the free seats at the MUNY, in Forest Park in St. Louis, with my grand-parents. (The MUNY is an outdoor theatre that has a resident ensemble and brings in principals in Broadway musicals. Huge stage and audience, and the last rows are free.) We’d go early and picnic then wait in line to dash for the best free seats. First indoor theatre experience was seeing June Lockhart in a straight play at the Empress Theatre in St. Louis with my grandmother.
3. Who was the person (or persons) that made the biggest impact on your career?
Judy Garland movies and my high school drama teacher, who directed You Can’t Take it with You. He was killed in an auto accident on the way home from our dress rehearsal. Whoa! The real impact came the day AFTER that opening night when students at the school spoke to me in the hall for the first time – after I had attended the school for 4 years (I was a skinny, shy, nerd). Suddenly everyone knew me (or wanted to). That was a clear message that I should pursue the theatre – skinny or not! Biggest “career” impact came from Surflight Theatre in New Jersey – working with theatre professionals (actors, designers and technicians) from New York and Philadelphia.
4. Any favorite roles or shows?
Anne in The Diary of Anne Frank (first leading role – obviously a L-O-N-G time ago!)
Lil Zalinsky in Last Summer at Blue Fish Cove
Vera Charles in Mame
Wicked Witch in Wizard of Oz
Amy (the Reluctant Bride) in Company
Julia in Lend Me A Tenor
5. Ever work with any celebrities? If so, how about dropping a few names!
Paula Vogel (I performed in the first staged reading of her play And Baby Makes Seven)
My photo is published in an anthology of Lesbian plays. I appeared in Small Domestic Acts, which was taped by the BBC
John Davidson (A Christmas Carol, Surflight)
Donna McKechnie (Surflight)
Marty Vreeland (Broadway lighting designer); many other Broadway designers while at Surflight
David Edwards (many plays at Surflight) He did Broadway work since childhood, was the last El Gallo in The Fantastiks when it closed.
Kate Clinton Lesbian comic (I was the Wired Women Emcee – a lesbian production company)
BETTY NYC music trio (Wired Women Emcee)
Ronnie Gilbert and Holly Near (Wired Women Emcee)
Janis Ian (Women’s Festival techie)
Anita Hill (Women’s Festival techie)
Geraldine Ferraro (Women’s Festival techie)
Odetta (Women’s Festival techie
At the Botanical Garden in St. Louis, I drove (and gave tours) for Margaret Thatcher, and the Emperor and Empress of Japan.
6. You do a bit of everything – acting, photography, graphic design. Tell us how that evolved – and what other kinds of jobs you’ve worked at in your life.
I learned almost everything that I do from working in the theatre. Cutting and pasting layouts for Playbills in community theatre, building and painting sets, building properties, electrics, performance etc. I worked as a photographic assistant for two commercial photographers who taught me darkroom and photography basics. We went into coalmines for Peabody Coal, shot Budweiser beer ads (in-studio and out with the Clydesdales) and worked for major ad agencies in St. Louis, providing them with the print photography that they required. I went on to be the St. Louis Zoo staff photographer, and free-lanced for local businesses and theatres. My photographic dream at that time was to shoot wildlife in Africa (for Jane Goddall ferinstance!) That didn’t happen. I married and birthed a daughter and was a stay-at-home mom for several years. Working in a small print shop, I learned computer graphics, typesetting, and shooting plates for the presses. That job also ungraded my layout and design skills. I was the supervisor of Tram Tours at the Missouri Botanical Garden (using my acting abilities to pretend that I knew all about horticulture and gardening – I knew the script really well!)
7. Where were you living before moving to Knoxville and what brought you here?
I lived on Long Beach Island, New Jersey (a barrier island between Atlantic City and Manhattan) and worked full-time for Surflight Theatre – a summer stock house with an Equity agreement. Several members of each ensemble received their cards at the end of the season. I worked for Surflight (doing acting, tech work; properties and electrics mostly, photography and graphics) for 11 years, new management “reorganized” me off the staff. The resort island was very expensive and I was unable to remain living there without that full-time employment. I “retired” to Knoxville – where I had friends from my St. Louis Zoo days. Knoxville is still close enough to my daughter and granddaughters (in Virginia) and that proximity allows me to make frequent visits Knoxville is beautiful, and highly affordable.
8. What other forms of art inspire you?
FILM!! I’m hoping to hone my filmmaking abilities in the coming years. I’m upgrading my equipment and my brain! I have several screenplays in my mind.
9. How did you find out about Flying Anvil?
John Conway – Eileen’s husband. John was my seatmate at Lady Vols softball games. As season ticket holders, our seats were next to each other. Unaware of my history of working in the theatre, he asked me if I ever did pro bono graphics work. I said that I did. He said that his wife was working with a new start-up theatre in town. Now THAT was meant to be, doncha think?!! Random encounter with a stranger at a softball game!!!
10. What do you do to relax?
Float on a quiet lake or river in my kayak, fly fish (though that can be less than relaxing), sit on a beach or near any body of water – stare at (and photograph) nature in all forms, or lie in a hammock in my backyard and read.
11. Now – about your name…how did you get it?
The family legend is that, as a young child, if I didn’t like something I would call it “Pookie.” I must have used the word a lot. They started calling me that. I have joked that if my family was using my word for “yucky” as a nickname, it must have led to my low self-esteem! The name stuck and as a frequent free-lancer it was easy to remember. Folks would say “call Pook, she can do that!”
12. Do you have any favorite holiday traditions?
We watch It’s a Wonderful Life, fold Origami cranes for the tree, bake, and decorate cookies.