Patricia P. McArt, actor and supporter of community theater, dies at 89

Johns Hopkins laboratory worker was an longtime actor in and an enthusiastic supporter of local theater.

Patricia P. McArt, a former laboratory worker and character actor who enjoyed performing with local theater groups, died March 5 after suffering a heart attack. She was 89.

"We had just seen a show, 'I Hate Hamlet,' at Dundalk Community Theatre and were on our way to dinner when she had a heart attack," said her daughter Elissa M. Heck of Mayfield.

"As the playwright of a number of musical extravaganzas, Pat could not have written her exit more perfectly to the way she wanted to leave this earthly world," wrote another daughter, Patrice Werschmidt of Yorba Linda, Calif., in a profile of her mother. "She was active up until the last moment of her life."

"Pat was such a force of nature that she kept on going right up to the end," said Anne M. Lefter, director of performing arts at the Community College of Baltimore County. "She always had so much energy."

The daughter of William Nicholas Parr, a liquor distributor, and Marie Julia Klecka Parr, a homemaker, Patricia Parr was born in Baltimore and raised on Lakeside Avenue in Ednor Gardens.

She was a 1945 graduate of the Institute of Notre Dame and received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from what is now Notre Dame of Maryland University in 1949.

Mrs. McArt worked for more than 30 years in the chemistry laboratory at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She retired in 1994.

"Her love of the theater went back to the days when she was a child. She always was in love with the theater," said Ms. Werschmidt in a telephone interview. "She always sang and loved musicals. I think she could sing the scores of every musical that was out there."

After she retired, Mrs. McArt was devoted her time to performing with the Cockpit in Court Theater, on the Essex campus of the Community College of Baltimore County. She had served on the theater's board since the 1970s.

With Cockpit in Court, she was closely involved in large-scale musicals on the Main Stage Theatre, as well as comedies and dramas performed in the Cabaret Theatre and summer children's musicals.

Mrs. McArt had spent the day before her death conducting auditions for the summer season of Cockpit in Court. Theater officials said the 2017 summer season will be dedicated to her memory.

She also performed with the Senior Star Showcase, which gave senior citizens an opportunity to participate in musical revues and fully staged musicals.

Mrs. McArt was leading playwright for musicals performed by Bykota On Stage, a group she co-founded in 1999. The troupe puts on shows throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area.

In addition to Dundalk Community Theatre, which is on Dundalk campus of CCBC, she performed with other groups including the St. Teresa Players, St. Matthew Players, Spotlighters and the Harlequin Dinner Theatre.

She performed in "The Music Man," Dundalk Community Theatre's opening production in 1975.

"I think she appeared in more than 500 plays over the years," said Ms. Werschmidt. "She was very versatile and loved playing comedy as a character actor."

She volunteered at Center Stage, served on the board of the Vagabond Players and was a supernumerary for the Baltimore Opera Company.

Tim Evans, an actor and playwright, got to know Mrs. McArt during the Baltimore Playwrights Festival in 1982 when she performed in his play "Symposium."

"It was amazing to see my own work on stage and even though Pat had a throwaway role, she made it into something that was memorable," he said. "She had the ability to take a role off a page and make it real."

He noted her "willingness to do anything for the theater."

"I saw Pat in 'Guys and Dolls' when she played Big Julie, and she was just hysterical," Ms. Leftner said. "She had control of the stage every moment she was on. You never knew what she was going to do because she had so much energy.

Among the characters she played through the years were the mother superior in "The Sound of Music" and Mother Rose in "Gypsy."

Mrs. McArt recently finished a musical, Big Band Bash," for Bykota On Stage which featured big band music from the 1930s, '40s and early '50s.

"As an actress she was terrific, and she had such a great voice. Here she is in her late 80s and she's still singing," said Edward Rignol a Bykota On Stage performer and longtime friend.

"She was dynamic, and she did it all her way," he said.

A former resident of The Alameda, she moved to Perry Hall a decade ago.

She was an animal lover and had rescued many cats and dogs.

Her husband of 21 years, Francis J. McArt, an attorney, died in 1993. An earlier marriage to George W. Heck ended in divorce.

She was a communicant of St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church, 3615 Harford Road, where a memorial Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. March 25.

In addition to her two daughters, she is survived by three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

frasmussen@baltsun.com

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