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Perfect Timing

Instituto Gandarela President, Mauro Maya and Patrick Flick pose with a model of the Globe Theatre to be built on sight in Rio Acima, Brazil Successful theatre professional Patrick Flick takes advantage of a life change to pursue MFA degree

by Micki Panttaja

An interesting setting, a plot with twists and turns, an engaging character that faces obstacles and overcomes them in unique way, these are just some of the parts in a well-crafted play. But for graduate student Patrick Flick, these elements could also describe how, in the course of one year, he made a major career change, landed a new job that included consulting on the planning stages of a brand new Globe Theater in Brazil, and went back to school to earn his MFA through the University of Idaho’s Theatre distance learning program.

But just like classic protagonist, Patrick’s journey was the result of unforeseen consequences set in motion by forces that were out of his control.

As the Associate Artistic Director of the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre (OST) for nearly a decade, and as a successful television producer before that – winning four Northern California Emmy Awards, Flick was (and is) an established and accomplished professional by any measure. However, when the OST shifted his position to their partner organization, the University of Central Florida nobody realized that the University would require a terminal degree. Flick had an BA in Theatre and an Master of Arts in Playwriting from Miami University of Ohio, but no MFA or PhD. .

“Without a terminal degree, I could not retain the job I had been doing for nine years,” he explains. “As it turned out, they offered to consider my professional experience in lieu of the terminal degree, but I had already made the decision to leave Florida and finish an MFA somewhere. The University of Idaho happened to be a perfect fit.”

Flick discovered the program through his position as the Literary Chair on the Executive Committee of the National New Play Network (NNPN).

“University of Idaho professor, Robert Caisley is an alumni playwright from NNPN and when he heard about my situation, he offered to speak with me about his distance program at UI. It was a unique and exciting opportunity that would fulfill my needs personal, professional and academic.”

One of his professional needs was to work around his busy schedule as the new General Manager of the Shakespeare Theatre Association (STA). The organization provides a forum for artistic, managerial, and educational leadership for theatres primarily involved with the production of the works of William Shakespeare. In fulfillment of this mission, Flick was recently part of a STA delegation that traveled to Rio Acima, Brazil to explore providing support and programming content for the new Globe Theater being built there.

“There is very European feeling about the kind of theatre I saw there. From teenagers in Rio de Janeiro's infamous Favelas performing Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona, or learning circus skills, to puppeteers and Commedia dell'arte in the heart of Minas Gerais, there is a feeling of risk taking and tradition at the same time in their art.”

To take advantage of his work at STA and other theatrical ventures, Caisley worked with Flick to create a custom designed degree program in Directing and Dramaturgy.

“Since I am a practicing theatre professional, I have the advantage of using my professional work experiences as learning opportunities. I was directing two plays last year (William Missouri Down's NNPN Rolling World Premier of The Exit Interview at Orlando Shakespeare Theater and Knight of the Burning Pestle at Theatre at Monmouth), so I was able to document those processes and utilize them for academic credit. I was also assisting in producing the National New Play Network's annual Showcase of New Plays at Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, DC.”

Flick’s documentation of these projects as well as participating in the Denver Center's annual New Play Summit and the Shakespeare Theatre Association's annual conference were also counted towards his degree. He also attended UI classes via Skype.

“Additionally, I was lucky enough to be able to visit the Moscow campus for a week in February and filled in for Dr. Caisley as the class Dramaturge while he was attending rehearsals for a professional play opening of his own.”

Flick says that although it has been occasionally challenging juggling his busy career with completing his degree it has been worth it.

“Everyone knows that a mid-career MFA has the potential to bring the rest of your life to a grinding halt. This program integrated seamlessly into my working life while providing me with a challenging and stimulating academic opportunity.”

The UI Theatre Department provides distance Leaning MFA Programs in Design, Directing and Dramatic Writing. For more information about the UI MFA Distance Learning Program contact Robert Caisley: rcaisley@uidaho.edu or Department Chair Dean Panttaja: panttaja@uidaho.edu