#ElonGrad 2020 Spotlight: Tara Patterson, Theatrical Design and Technology, Arts Administration

In this series, Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences is shining the spotlight on distinguished members of the Class of 2020 from a wide array of disciplines.

Tara Patterson

Patterson double-majored in Theatrical Design and Technology and Arts Administration, and was named the Outstanding Senior in Theatrical and Technical Design for the Class of 2020.

What led you to choose theatrical design and technology and arts administration as your majors?

Theatre has always been a big part of my life. When I was in high school I knew I was passionate about spreading theatre and making theatre happen, rather it be behind the scenes, or behind a desk.

What was your research topic and how did you choose that subject? How did that enrich your education?

My research topic allowed me to assist Assistant Professor of Arts Administration David McGraw on the largest survey of stage managers in the world. I picked this topic because David asked if I was interested in the project during my sophomore year here, and as the survey takes place every two years it was an honor to get to work on it again my senior year. It’s been wonderful being a part of something that returns regularly and being a part in its growth and development.

I was able to participate in Elon in New York and it enriched my education in so many ways. One of these is I was able to conduct interviews with about 10 different stage managers and was able to get qualitative support on much of the quantitative data we had collected.

Which performances were most valuable to you as a student?

Student works were usually the most valuable to me because they were opportunities for my leadership skills to shine. Working on projects where creativity is fostered among every team member is something I truly learned to cherish during student productions. I could argue that everyone’s production I worked on at Elon taught me a skill or lesson that I can take with me in my professional pursuits.

What is your proudest accomplishment while at Elon?

The first thing that comes to mind is serving as the 2019 president of Alpha Psi Omega, Lambda Omicron, the Theatre Honors Fraternity at Elon. Being one of the four leaders during a period of exciting growth for the chapter is something I am incredibly proud of.

How has your relationship with your mentor furthered your educational goals or helped you grow?

David McGraw is my mentor and I truly could not express how helpful he has been, not only as an arts administrator but also a stage manager in my professional development. I am very lucky to have a mentor who has a background in the jobs and positions I am interested in having.

David is so well known in the industry that he often becomes a connection that I have with other theatre professionals I get to meet. He has given me incredible opportunities such as presenting our work on the Broadway Stage Management Symposium as well as the Southeastern Theatre Conference. I am lucky that I know that our lives will most likely intersect again even after I graduate, as David is known for continuing his mentorships in the alumni community.

What are your plans for the future?

This is a very complicated question as I am entering the field during an emergency of the theatre community, but I know I will be a part of the rebuild once it is safe for theatres to open once again. I am interested in pursuing a career as a freelance stage manager and I intend to travel quite a bit when I am in these early stages of my career.

What advice would you give to future Elon students, or what do you wish you had known as a first-year student?

Other people’s success is not your failure. If you go into every job and every opportunity like it is a competition, you will be burned out so quickly. Art thrives when we all are working and when we are all successful, and that often means giving up opportunities you thought were perfect for you.

What’s your favorite Elon tradition?

So many to think of, but I love the Theatrical Design and Technology Brunches that often accompany big events such as holidays and finals. It’s a time for us to put work aside and focus on the unbreakable bonds we have with each other. It’s a great reminder that we are a huge support system, and I am so glad I have so many amazing memories to reflect on.