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