Q&A Spotlight: Building Bridges Between School and Professional Theatre

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Patrick O'Neil -Prosper HSInterview with Patrick S. O’Neil, Prosper High School, Prosper, Texas

Your Performance Partners: How have bridges been successfully built between academic performing arts and the “real world”?

O’Neil: We have relationships with local theatre companies such as Rover Dramawerks, which is run by a friend of mine, Jason Rice. He loves my kids because they are willing to come to the last night of his shows and help tear down the set. We’ve also had guest speakers from schools and professional groups come in to talk to the kids about their futures in theatre, and throughout the year the students go on various trips or conventions or — in the past two years — to New York City. On these trips they see professional plays, work with professional actors and technicians in workshops, and just learn more about how theatre is done in the real world.

Your Performance Partners: What else can current performing arts professionals do to help nurture and foster the next generation?

O’Neil: Professionals who are interested in helping the next generation do a pretty good job of volunteering to give talks and do workshops with students, but really the responsibility is with the students to find such opportunities and take them. There are constant audition opportunities, workshops, classes, etc., available for students around the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Students who seek out and take them are the ones who are successful now, and who will continue to be successful in the future.
If you’re a professional who has knowledge and wants to share it – I’d say contact your local schools and universities, or just go do theatre in a place that casts students. I learned more from acting and doing backstage work from old pros who were just there to either practice their skills or earn a few extra dollars than I have in almost any other context!

_Prosper HS_3175Patrick S. O’Neil teaches technical theatre at Prosper High School (PHS) in Prosper, Texas. He graduated from Clarion University in Pennsylvania with a degree in secondary education communication arts and a minor in acting. O’Neil has taught theatre arts for 12 years and is extremely proud of the PHS Eagle Company Theatre Department, of which he has been a large part during the past four years. He’s currently also the instructional technology coach, assisting teachers in utilizing technology.

3 responses to “Q&A Spotlight: Building Bridges Between School and Professional Theatre”

  1. Jason Rice says:

    I think I should expand a little on why I live seeing Patrick’s students show up. While ready help is ALWAYS welcome, the single strongest feature this particular group of students consistently displays is a respectful and competent command of basic theater tech.

    While a warm body is useful, a mindful, listening and attentive “student” rather than “expert” is worth their weight in gold. That kind of helper can be assigned even leadership roles if you have confidence that THEY can police themselves and not bluff their way into trouble.

    That is only possible if the students arrive confident in their *capability* and not self conscious about their skill. Patrick has a consistent record of giving a strong simple grounding in tool and technique basics. “I’ve done something like XYZ. Is it like that?” is the single best response a student helper can have. They have just communicated their experience, their skill level and their awareness of possible limitations. That puts them on an a-list for mentoring and for development. Moreover, it gives the foreman or strike chief confidence that they won’t be bailing the student out of a mess in a few minutes.

    Epic advantage : Student Self Awareness

    • Your Performance Partners says:

      Thanks for sharing further background and explanation! It sounds like a great partnership between Patrick’s students and your staff/theatre.
      In a future Q&A, we hope to ask Patrick more about how he goes about instilling that attitude in students. We imagine there are strong parallels between the attitudes found in successful student volunteers — as you describe so well — and successful entry-level employees in a theatre and really almost any occupation/profession.

  2. Bobby Lowe says:

    Thanks to Patrick, I have continued to follow my dreams in the theatre and will be graduating with a BFA in Acting and a Directing minor next year and will be moving to New York immediately after

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