The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T +44 (0)1227 764000
Drama and Theatre Studies
- 01227 82(7318)
Dermot O’Brien's theatre industry and Arts Council background helps bring real world challenges to his teaching at Kent.
Son of a struggling playwright, Dermot sought fame and fortune in the developing business worlds of steel, finance and telecoms reaching the dizzy heights of regional directorship of marketing and development.
He also honed his skills as an international rally driver before realising that it was the winning and not the number of cars written off that was the important factor. So, at the age of 30, having felt he was too old for the high speed motor racing circuit and too young for the full time corporate boardroom, and armed with the MBA and Diploma achieved through night time and part time study, he gave up mammon and headed off to join the family business (i.e. struggling in the arts).
He became an actor, gaining his full Equity by travelling to strange obscure theatres in the middle of nowhere performing even more obscure scripts, before starting to direct and creating two mid scale touring theatre companies (Logos and Theatre Paradiso).
He has directed seasons at theatres such as Wimbledon and The Mermaid, where he produced critically acclaimed versions of King Lear, Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet and Measure for Measure in repertory. He was asked to develop the Arts in Bromley and from here he fell into the bizarre world of local government and arts funding systems.
He ended as Director of Performing Arts for the Arts Council and South East Arts. Mixing business and arts has been a constant pleasure for Dermot and he is a member of both the Institute of Directors and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He was a member of the Equity Theatre Directors Panel for 8 years and is a member of the Directors Guild of Great Britain and the Institute of Leisure and Amenity Management.
Dermot has developed business plans and assessments for several British theatres including the Royal Exchange in Manchester and Chichester Festival Theatre; in 1999 he was the author of the Arts Council appraisal of the Royal National Theatre. Externally Dermot sits on several boards including events companies and arts trusts and foundations, and is a member of the British Racing Drivers Club.back to top
Using real life and virtual scenarios, my students experience dealing with outside world problems and projects. Where possible they are confronted with the needs and desires of the industry that takes them from their comfort zone and prepares them for the expectations when they graduate.
I teach the following modules
Creative Producing - Masters Level Drama specialism in cultural leadership in creative producing and events, looking at developing creative ideas and how to implement and project manage them. The final submission is a Business Plan and Pitch for a creative idea.
Cultural Policy - 3rd year module looking at how theatre relates to policy directives emerging from local and central government, particularly how the Arts Council of England operate. The final submission is a creative project explained as an application to the Arts Council.
The Business of Event Production 2nd year module creating events have both an artistic and logistic element. This modules looks to developing the way in which a creative idea can be made real, covering Festival, Marketing and Launch events, the students explore different styles and understand the law, people management, Finance and market for event.
The School of Arts Placement Year - Co-ordinate and convene this programme across the School.
I have also taught on
Popular Performance - 2nd year module exploring the basis of popular performance from Commedia to slapstick and Drag. Encouraging students to create new skills in performance.
Performance the Seminar - 3rd year module that explores the analysis of drama through a study, and practice, of criticism. This is a practical course with both attendance and crits ongoing through the module, together with a wider ranging portfolio and in depth analysis of what criticism and analysis can contribute to the whole.
Acting - 2nd year module exploring basic skills related to the craft of Acting, the course will introduce students through practical means, to basic terms and concepts in rehearsal room practice. Students explore approaches concerning the use of detailed textual analysis when preparing a role for performance.
Performing Classical Texts - 3rd year module that looks at how classical texts, especially Shakespeare, are performed both historically and in the modern day. This is a practical module that looks to developing the physical aspect as well as the written analysis of character and text.
My practice is in Theatre performance, Directing and Producing. When creating new productions each becomes its own business, with its own identity and market - this is what makes a producer a serial entrepreneur. The Show Business model has so much to deliver to the business community. Effective and speedy team building, interdisciplinary working and communications are ultra important. These are skills that business is only just coming to terms with and yet Theatre has been grappling with them for many years.
Arts, and Drama in particular, are the basis for all human life. It is how we communicate, educate, and develop our societies. Without that ability to tell a story we wouldn't have any science or technology. This is why it is critical we have theatre and drama techniques to develop skills, explore the mind and enable freethinking. Cultural and Arts Policy is important and rather than simply justifying spending on a monetary basis, we need to fully appreciate the arts in its longer term and human benefit. This holistic approach to policy is another area I work in.
I am keen to see the talent developed in universities move into the business and create new and exciting work. To this end I helped develop the Arts Placement Year that allows a student a year in industry to develop employment skills and knowledge.
After helping initiate an exchange with Moscow Arts Theatre School with their arts management students, I teach them here on a regular basis. I have also taught in Moscow, holding discussions with the Russian Ministry of Culture on arts funding systems. I teach on recruitment fairs in the US and China and also hold employability surgeries for graduating students.
I have worked on the AURIL, The Creative Industry Working Group on Intellectual Property, AURIL Project Management and taught on the Babson national New Entrepreneurship Student Programme.
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