The AWTea with Mary – Bartek Puzoń

What does Shrek do from 9-5? Did you know Pippin also bakes a mean pie? With this series I aim to answer those questions and more as I peek behind the curtain and learn all about our participants’ experience with AWT and take a glimpse into their robust lives outside of theater. It’s time for AWTea with Mary!

In this episode, we get the AWTea from Bartek Puzoń!

MARY – Hello Bartek! Thank you so much for chatting with me! I’m hoping we can learn a lot about your life inside and outside of AWT! We’ll start with an easy one, please share your name & pronouns as well as any other descriptors that you feel represent or identify you.

BARTEK – My name is Bartek – he/him (The full/formal version of my name has more letters but it’s common in Poland to abbreviate it like this)

Well, I would definitely be interested to know what your full name is!

Sure, it’s Bartłomiej (Puzoń). I find it hilarious when people try to read my first name and they are doing well and then they notice the “j” at the end and you can see their face sink because they have no idea what to do with it (in slavic languages “j” makes a “y” sound)

Love it! So you grew up in Poland? What was that like? Where else have you lived?

Yes, I grew up in southern Poland in the mountains! I spent some time in Malaga (Spain), Tokyo and London, then lived in California (Bay Area) for 8 years or so and became a Manhatannite in 2019 – mostly to experience the East Coast. I also lived in Honolulu for about 8 months or so during covid.

All my family is in Poland, I have a younger brother and a younger sister. Because I moved a lot I have friends all over, which is sometimes hard because you rarely get to see the non-NYC ones but it’s a great feeling when you do meet it feels like no time has passed.

Wow, so much traveling! I love seeing all your instagram photos from around the world! How did you eventually decide to (more or less) settle in New York?

Yes, my favorite spot in any neighborhood is always the closest airport because I need to go somewhere else to recharge every now and then.

I have a degree in computer science from a technical university in Cracow, Poland. I came to the US soon after finishing it, on a temporary assignment. I was then offered a job, and decided to stay because “well, I had not lived in the US before”. The decision process from being offered the job to accepting to stay here permanently took about 25 seconds.

So what kind of work do you do that brought you here? Any other interesting aspects of your professional life?

I’m a programmer. The company does applications for wealth management offices. People use these when they have lots of assets in complicated ownership structures, where it suddenly becomes not that easy to know how much, of say, Google shares you actually own. For the record I am way too poor to be in need of my employer’s services 😛

To be more specific, my team does server side programming. I can’t program apps or anything with a user interface, I was never able to program something to look the way I want it to look and I feel no sense of accomplishment in making buttons rounder etc.

The only other job I’ve had before this was transporting blood and other specimens from medical clinics to a diagnostic lab. I remember finding it unbelievable that I get to drive around AND they’ll pay me to do it.

What do you like most about your job? Have you ever thought about doing something else?

I like most that the job can often be done remotely so I can spend some time away from wherever I happen to live (which recharges me) without taking days off. Note it’s not “working from the beach” – anyone who has tried that will tell you it’s BS and not very doable.

If I weren’t doing this, I think I’d like to be a massage/physical therapist, or a tour guide. Or maybe a mediator. The one who listens to people yell at each other and figures out what each of them really wants. I seem to have some natural talent towards that. Or maybe I would go to a conservatory for piano.

I could see you doing all those things! I know you’ve convinced a few people you work with to join AWT, was it hard to convince them?

When I do something, I usually have a fairly good idea which of my friends would enjoy it so I would methodically pester them about it until they are so worn down they give in just to get rid of me. However, I have a stellar record in that no one has ever regretted anything I talked them into, including AWT!

Love to hear that! So let’s talk about AWT. The first question everyone asks at AWT, How did you learn about it? How did you get involved?

This is actually a long story in 2 acts:

Act I: Sometime before 2019
My boss, when I was living in California, tried to set me up with a community theater actress, so I went to see her in a production of Pippin where she plays Katherine. The set up does not work out, but I take note of how this whole community theater thing seems like a lot of fun and people look happy doing it. It crosses my mind that it could be fun to try someday but I assume that with no experience, an accent, and a hint of lisp, it wouldn’t be possible. However I liked the show enough to download the music and listen to it a lot.

Act 2: 2019
I moved to New York for work and joined a local taiko (japanese drumming) group which rehearsed in the Theater For The New City. One day I’m going to rehearsal and listening to my downloaded Pippin music. When I get to the theater I stop the music…but the music keeps playing…. I notice it’s now coming from one of the theaters, so I stick my head in to listen. Turns out it’s warm ups before the first performance of AWTs Pippin. The person at the desk tells me I can still buy a ticket and that I can even sign up to be in the group. They hand me a piece of paper, I put my name on it, and it turns out I’ve signed up for High School Musical! At that time I had not – and to this day haven’t – seen the HSM movie and I had no idea what it was. I also get to see Pippin after the drumming class is over.

So you are essentially saying you were tricked into joining AWT? lol

Pretty much

So what have you done with AWT since then? Any favorite/memorable moments you could share?

I was in HSM as the shy kid, Disney Sing Out, Shrek as the Captain and [the first two] dance outs. I always like any onstage improvised moments especially when I get to play around with fellow actors. When I came to the HSM launch day I remember us newbies naturally gravitating to each other and starting to chat. That was very nice.

I remember that too! HSM was my newbie show as well! What kind of theater experience did you have prior to AWT?

Zero. I was backstage of a theater once when I was like 13. In Poland there is no drama class so unless you specifically pursue it, you won’t have a chance to try. Performance wise (not just theater), I was in a Japanese taiko drumming ensemble, I did that in California and a bit in Japan, and I was also in a salsa dance group.

That’s so great that you are so open to trying new things! Outside of work and AWT what other interests/hobbies do you have, I’m sure you have many!

I use almost all of my free time and resources to travel to weird far away places. I blame my parents who, when I was a kid, would give me old geography books full of tales of magical places like Newfoundland, Siberia or Kentucky. I’m currently preparing to sail around Australia and up to China across the equator late this year, which is very exciting (however I get so seasick half of it will likely be an exercise in misery).

That’s cool (except for the seasick part)! Do you know how to sail? Will you be doing this alone or with a group? Sounds very exciting!

By now I’d say I know my way around a sailboat but I lack experience (I do have ASA 101 and Rya Competent Crew certifications though). The thing I’m doing is called “Clipper Round the World Race, although I’m only doing a short subset of it. Check out their website, no prior experience is needed. This being said, it requires a considerable amount of savings to pull off, and so is likely one of these “once-in-a-lifetime” events. If this sounds in any way interesting to anyone, please talk to me so I can convince you to do it!

Wow! Good luck! What else are you into?

In addition to the Japanese taiko drumming (hi Aya!), and joining that beginner salsa dance team. I can somewhat ski but usually can’t be bothered to wake up that early. I also have a diving license but the water is usually too cold. I find the Spanish language lovely but usually don’t get to use it much anymore. I have done some outrigger canoe paddling and I know how to play about 4 songs on the piano, some of them admittedly well enough to fool people into thinking I can play more than 4 songs on the piano.

Amazing! My family often tells me I have too many hobbies, I can’t imagine what they would say to you! 🙂 Well, we are winding down to the end of my questions. Anything else you want to share about yourself?

I’m bad at bars and picnics and I can’t sing for shit, and sadly I have enough of a musical ear to be painfully aware of that.

Haha, well for what it’s worth I think you are perfectly lovely at bars! Ok, to wrap up I have 10 rapid rapid fire questions. Try not to overthink too much!

  • What is something you’ve done recently for the first time?
    I had to call a man-overboard emergency at night at sea (it turned out to be bogus but we did not know that at the time). It was a very humbling and chilling experience.
  • What makes you happiest right now?
  • What’s the best part about living in NYC? (Or wherever you live)
    Lots of flights to everywhere
  • What’s your favorite stage show?
  • What’s your favorite food?
    Panda express and apples
  • What’s your favorite karaoke song?
    Master of the house
  • What’s your dream role?
    Threnadier (Les mis) or Scar
  • What’s your favorite way to spend a sunday? (when you don’t have rehearsal)
    Out of town
  • What’s your zodiac sign and what’s the most “sign” thing about you?
    Pieces? Pisces? Piesces? And I have no idea. Also tiger and A+
  • What is a piece of advice you’d give to an AWT Newbie?
    Just do it