Patrick Page is in love. He loves his current gig as slydog Comte De Guiche in Broadway's acclaimed and very romantic revival of Cyrano de Bergerac at the Roundabout's American Airlines Theatre, he adores co-stars Douglas Hodge (Cyrano) and Clemence Poesy (Roxane), and he still gets weak in the knees over the love of his wife, former Beauty and the Beast co-star Paige Davis. We asked this longtime stage favorite to, like Cyrano himself, wax poetic about love. He ended up giving us the best piece of relationship advice we've ever heard.
Have you experienced love at first sight?
It was a girl in 3rd grade. Becky Darby. She was vivacious and smart and beautiful. But I never confessed my love. I was so shy it was impossible.
What piece of advice do you wish you could go back and give your teenaged self about women?
I would tell him that girls are not as shallow as he thinks they are — they're not only interested in the very popular good-looking basketball player. I'd say, "There are very interesting, deep and complex girls out there — and they'll be interested in a skinny kid with a deep voice who likes Shakespeare. Get to know them!"
What was your first heartbreak?
I didn't get my heart broken until late in my life, in my 30s. It was my girlfriend when I first moved to New York. I thought we were going to be together forever. She decided we wouldn't. It was the first time a girl decided to leave me. That wasn't because I was such a catch! It was I was very insecure and usually left people before they could leave me. Some very juvenile music and poetry writing got me through that breakup.
Have you ever written a love letter?
I've written many love letters. I've written love poems. The letters usually go over pretty well, because the recipients are too embarrassed to say otherwise. It's the thought that counts, right?
What's the most romantic song ever?
It's a song for my wife and I, Louis Armstrong's "A Kiss to Build a Dream On."
And the most romantic play ever?
Cyrano de Bergerac, without question! It's about pure love. Selfless love. Loving yourself as well. Many of the plays that are purportedly about love, like Romeo and Juliet, are actually about other things. Cyrano is pure love and integrity.
Your voice is like some dashing king's in a romantic movie—is it an asset when wooing the ladies?
I imagine is has been — I don't have much else going for me! It changed between sophomore and junior year of high school. The drama department decided to do Cabaret, and I was thin and small, so they pre-cast me as the Emcee. Then, over the summer, my nice Joel Grey voice turned into James Earl Jones' voice. We still did Cabaret anyway. It was…[laughs] difficult.
What "lover" would you most like to play?
Cyrano is the ultimate. Beyond that, it would be marvelous to play William Butler Yeats in his love for Maude Gonne. He loved her his entire life, unrequitedly, even after marrying another. I'd also like to play Shakespeare in a REAL version of his love life. His relationships with the dark lady and man in his sonnets are so intricate and fraught. To really do it in a dark, detailed way, with a great contemporary playwright would be wonderful.
What did you think when you met [wife and Broadway veteran] Paige the first time?
I thought she was the most beautiful, vivacious, charismatic girl I had ever seen. And sexy as Hell! We were both rebounding from bad relationships, so I didn't think much of it. But it feels we were meant to be together, because neither of us pursued the other one — we very naturally came together, first as friends — and here we are now.
How did you propose?
It was New Year's Eve. I was in Beauty and the Beast at the time, so I told her to meet me at midnight at Café des Artistes. It was a formal dinner. I had to go buy a tux. She was actually convinced the whole thing —the dressing up, meeting at a restaurant — was a set-up for me to break up with her!
I don't know! How she could think that is crazy, but whatever. Anyway, I arranged for her grandmother's ring to come over from Russia, and had the maître d put it in a plate with chocolate truffles so we could do the big reveal at dessert. She and I did the whole meal. Then came the truffles…and Paige didn't want any. She hates dessert. She told the maitre d, "No thank you." He was very confused. He's looking at me and I'm saying to her "just try the truffles" and she's saying "I don't want them," and I'm saying "really, YOU DO!" She finally picked up just one and there was the ring. I got on my knee. She was bawling. We caused a huge scene — it was lovely.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten about love?
That's easy. I had a mentor in college named Dr. George Ball who famously taught love. Sometime ago I went to him and asked how you chose the right person, and he said, "It isn't about finding the right person, it's about being the right person." That took my breath away, and I realized it was true — that looking back I could have, theoretically, had a happy life with most of the wonderful people I had been with if I'd focused less on "choosing" and more on making them happy. We have this mythology that's given to us by TV, film and plays that out there, somewhere, is that one person who will make you happy. Which isn't true. And even if there was, you would bring yourself, your flaws, how you approach love, to whoever you met. So you have to actively be the person who makes that person's life happy before expecting them to do the same for you.