Best Frenemies // By Patti Murin
Actor Patti Murin feuds with a former friend…and ends up her cast mate years later.
“YOU’RE A WHORE AND I HATE YOU!”
Or something like that.
Those were the final words I spoke to Kat Nejat in the winter of 2007. We were in the lobby of a Doubletree Hotel in Buckhead, Georgia, drinks had been consumed, and this was the culmination of a mostly silent feud between two very young actresses, centering around the guy she would eventually marry.
Details aren’t important but rest assured that no one did anything wrong or even slightly suspect. The entire thing was fueled by the insecurities that fill young women just starting out in the theatre industry, which results in emotions being misdirected at each other instead of at the unfair expectations placed upon them. It’s stressful, let me tell you that. But that’s a whole different essay for another day.
Fast forward to the late spring of 2011, and the first day of rehearsal for the musical Lysistrata Jones. The highly esteemed and well renowned theatre company, Transport Group, was producing the second version of the show formerly titled Give It Up! which had its regional premiere in Dallas, Texas at The Dallas Theatre Center. It had been a year and a half since then, and while some members of the cast remained, many had moved on to other projects and were unable to do the Off-Broadway production—which is how I found myself spending 40-60 hours per week with someone I would have called an enemy.
We had seen each other since that fateful night in Atlanta, as it is almost impossible to avoid people in the very small theatre world we live in. She had been in a Broadway show with the person I was married to at the time, but we hadn’t exchanged anything more than a fake smile and a wave before inevitably turning away and, I’m sure, talking shit about each other to our respective partners. But no words had been exchanged, no acknowledgment of our past—nothing to show we had matured and could now look back and laugh at the silliness of what being out of town with High School Musical could do to someone’s psyche.
I will admit I was not intensely happy when I heard that Kat was joining the cast. But since there was no choice but to nod my head and march into that first day of rehearsal, that’s exactly what I did.
And lo and behold, I found that I liked Kat Nejat.
No, not liked. I fucking LOVED Kat Nejat. Kat was funny and cool and smart and could hit soprano notes I didn’t even know existed. She was also a great listener, and supportive and interesting and (even though she would never say that at the time) maternal and warm. Kat was basically my new best friend. The woman I had once called a whore in dramatic fashion in public, I was now onstage with, in a show where one of her lines was quite literally “WHORES!” And I am hard pressed to think of someone I have had more fun with than Kat freaking Nejat.
Now Transport Group has been known for decades for their ingenious site-specific productions. So, since Lysistrata Jones was about college basketball, we were using The Gym at Judson but back when it was just the gym in the basement of the Judson Memorial Church in the West Village, before the renovations and before some modern comforts were implemented. Our dressing rooms were supply closets with tables and mirrors thrown in. We had a mouse that we named “Mr. Bojangles” that liked to get into Katie Boren’s eye makeup. The entire cast of all genders used one 3-stalled bathroom, but one stall was always out of service. The boys are in there doing their hair and you have to poop? Tough luck. Needless to say, we all got very close very quickly.
I didn’t just get close to Kat because we were in such extreme physical proximity for 10 weeks. I got close to her because Transport Group provided not just a job in the theatre for us, but an experience that I will never forget. They immediately fostered a safe, friendly environment and an attitude of “We’re all in this together.” Which is ironic since in the winter of 2007, Kat and I were very much NOT in this together. Get it? High School Musical? We’re all in this…? Yes, the best jokes are the ones you have to explain.
But with the encouragement of Jack Cummings III (TG Artistic Director) and Lori Fineman (then TG’s Executive Director) and everyone who worked their butts off to put on the extremely successful Lysistrata Jones, we fed off of that energy, started letting down our walls, and finally got to see how perfect we were for each other.
Kat is the best thing gift I have received from my time with “Lyssie Jay.” She, along with fellow cast member Lindsay Nicole Chambers, saw me through my divorce, and through a medical emergency that ended with me in the hospital in the ICU overnight. She is an incredibly gifted makeup artist who not only made my face look good through all 3 years of Frozen on Broadway, but who also acted as my Emotional Support Kat through the times of immense stress and pressure. I can tell Kat anything, literally anything, and not be afraid of her reaction. She has been on the receiving end of many insane text messages from me, and she always answers. She loves me unconditionally, and I feel the same way about her. Cheesy as this sounds, I am so, so incredibly lucky to have Kat Nejat as a best friend.
I’m constantly asked what my favorite part of doing a show is, and my answer is always “the family I take away from it.” Because of everyone at Transport Group, I got Kat. And she got me, whether she likes it or not.
About the author:
Patti Murin is best known for originating the role of Princess Anna in Disney’s Frozen on Broadway. Other Broadway/National Tour credits include playing the title character in Lysistrata Jones, flying across the country by bubble as Glinda in Wicked, and roller skating her way to Broadway in Xanadu (Euterpe). Off-Broadway: Lysistrata Jones (Transport Group), Love’s Labour’s Lost (Shakespeare in the Park), Fly By Night (Playwrights Horizons), Lady Be Good! (Encores!). Almost Broadway: Nerds (Sally). Television: Hallmark Channel movies Love On Iceland, Holiday For Heroes, and To Catch A Spy, and recurring roles on Chicago Med and Royal Pains.