judy norton

Hollywood comes to Guntersville's Whole Backstage

By Katherine Brewer

The Whole Backstage hosted an actors' workshop July 7 with professional actors Jeffery Patterson and Judy Norton as the instructors.

Both coming from Hollywood, California, Mr. Patterson is an award-winning producer, director, actor, filmmaker and founder of the feature film company, Once Upon a Dream Productions, which creates and focuses on entertainment with family-friendly content. Judy Norton, who played Mary Ellen, the oldest daughter in the beloved 9-year television series, “The Waltons,” shared her talents as an award-winning professional writer, director, actor and musical theatre performer. Spaces quickly filled up for the free seminar with approximately 50 participants.

The fortunate circumstances for Mr. Patterson and Ms. Norton to direct this seminar were based on an old friendship. Mr. Patterson, originally from Albertville, and Greg Leach, a Guntersville native, became friends more than 40 years ago through their love for flying. Mr. Patterson’s father, Jerry, owned a crop-dusting service among other businesses in Albertville and Guntersville, and he spent a great deal of time at the airports of both cities.

When Jeffery was about 12 years old and Greg was about 15, they often met up at the airports while their pilot fathers worked and talked about airplanes. At age 26, Greg earned his pilot’s license and spent several years giving flying lessons, piloting private trips for individuals, including many trips with Hinton Mitchem, now deceased, when he was a candidate for lieutenant governor of Alabama. Throughout the years, Jeffery and Greg have kept in touch as their lives traveled different routes to different places.

About a month ago, one late night, Mr. Patterson called Mr. Leach. During the conversation, Mr. Leach described his and his family’s involvement and love for the Whole Backstage theatre.

“Impressed with Greg’s enthusiasm about the Whole Backstage, I was thrilled to offer my expertise to conduct a workshop,” Mr. Patterson said. “And I knew if scheduling would permit, it would be great to bring along my business partner, fellow actor and writer, and theatric instructor, Judy Norton. She is an actors' workshop guru and is always so generous with her knowledge and advice. My teenage twin daughters and I were in the planning stages of a possible visit to Marshall County, and we really wanted this project to come together for the Whole Backstage,” Mr. Patterson said.

Mr. Patterson’s ties to Marshall County are strong, even though most of his adult life he has lived in California. His grandfather, Jesse Corbin, served as probate judge for several decades, and was an important encourager and role model in Mr. Patterson’s formative years.

“I often rely on wisdom that I learned from him, and his stories still teach me lessons in my everyday life,” Mr. Patterson said.

Once contacts were made and dates were set, Mr. Leach contacted Johnny Brewer to organize and publicize this special opportunity for the Whole Backstage. A few days before the workshop, Mr. Patterson, his daughters and Ms. Norton arrived in Guntersville. Andy Hunter provided them with a tour of the Whole Backstage, along with a history lesson behind the organization and the building.

“We were amazed at the facility and its capabilities,” Mr. Patterson said. “It was almost unbelievable to me, to see this performance space and imagine the many positives that are offered here. Marshall County is so fortunate to have a professional-level theatre like this, with obvious incredible support from the community and other sources."

After the workshop, Mr. Patterson noted, “The amount of talent here is remarkable. I wish that we could’ve stayed longer and worked with some of the participants. We hope that our workshop provided some useful techniques and strategies that will be relevant and valuable tools of the trade. Our visit to Guntersville and north Alabama was delightful, and we look forward to returning soon.”

By Katherine Brewer

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FREE Acting Seminar & Workshop with Judy Norton


Sponsored and hosted by The Whole Backstage Theatre for ages 15 years old and above.

Take your acting to the next level and learn from award winning Hollywood actor and award winning director / producer. Jeffery Patterson and Judy Norton will be teaching a FREE Acting Seminar & Workshop at The Whole Backstage Theatre on Friday, July 7th from 6pm to 10pm!

Judy Norton launched to international fame when she starred for 9 years in the Emmy Award winning series THE WALTONS. Since then, she has gone on to numerous other TV appearances, as well as roles in feature films. On the stage she has starred in productions of such classics as HELLO DOLLY, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, SOUND OF MUSIC and BLOOD BROTHERS.

Judy’s theatre directing credits include such popular musicals as CABARET, A CHORUS LINE, and ALL SHOOK UP. In total she has written and directed more than 50 productions. 

Branching out from her musical theatre roots, Judy sang on the DOVE nominated single THAT’S WHAT CHRISTMAS MEANS TO ME and has gone on to record two CDs and perform in concerts all over the world. 

Judy has coached numerous actors and also taught a Master Class in acting for film and television helping guide students who have gone on to star on TV series, films and Broadway shows. 

Jeffery Patterson founded Once Upon A Dream Productions which is a feature-film production company based in Hollywood, California that focuses on family friendly theatrical content. Patterson just recently completed feature film, Woman on the Edge, in which he co-starred with Rumor Willis. Patterson’s production company has four additional movies now in post-production, slated for theatrical release this year. 

Patterson and Norton paired up on their first feature film together, Finding Harmony which was shot in Muscle Shoals, Alabama at Fame Ranch. Norton wrote, Patterson produced, and they starred alongside Billy Zane, Alison Eastwood & Ed Bruce. 

The most recent collaboration between Patterson and Norton is another script Judy Norton wrote titled Another Day in Paradise starring Patterson’s identical twin daughters (Madeline Paige and Autumn Patterson) along with Frankie Muniz, Joanna Krupa, Angie Everhart. Jeffery and Judy played brother and sister in the film. Another Day in Paradise won best drama at the International Family Film Festival this year.

Limited spaces are available, so RSVP TODAY by calling 256-582-7469 Monday Through Friday between 9a-3pm. You must RSVP by June 30th for your chance to meet face to face with these two Hollywood stars. 

Complete this survey by clicking here to give feedback on what YOU want to learn. We look forward to seeing you all there! Don’t forget to RSVP at 256-582-7469!

Learn more about Jeffery Patterson:

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