Theater Alum Colin Byrne (’03) took the time to share his personal story and talk about his current career and how Cornish paved the way.
We extend a hearty thank you to Colin for this interview!
Describe growing up and your childhood.
I am from a very small town in northern California. I was born in a one-room cabin and spent most of my childhood running around the woods with my brother. We lived in a lot of cool-but-odd hand-built homes. I went to a small Montessori-based school (25 kids K-12) that had a focus on art, myth, and psychology. I was exposed to and participated in a lot of art.
Tell us about why you decided to pursue art and why Cornish?
The focus on art in school, my exposure to tons and tons of art (of all forms), my parents both being artists, all made pursuing art in college almost a no-brainer and close to an unspoken expectation. I was very fortunate that it was viewed the same as getting a business degree. I chose to apply to Cornish mostly because my girlfriend at the time was applying.
Also there was a stage combat program; plus I thought it was a requirement that every senior thesis had to be a collaboration with a student from another department. But I almost didn’t go to Cornish; I was accepted into the Mechanical Engineering department at UW around the same time. The decision was made for me by the fact that I could defer my acceptance to UW, but I could not defer my Cornish acceptance without having to audition again and that scared the crap out of me (I was sure I wouldn’t get in the next year).
What was your takeaway from Cornish?
So much of what I learned didn’t hit me until years after leaving Cornish (and I’m sure I will continue to have those “Aha! That’s what the hell they were going on and on about” moments). I think one of the biggest takeaways was that it is about the people. The people you work with, the people you create with and the person you are in the midst of it all. Choose and cultivate that with mindfulness and self-reflection.
Were/Are your parents artists?
Yes my parents are both artists. My mom is a dancer and musician, and my dad is a woodworker, cabinet maker and musician.
How did your art lead you to your current position as a lawyer and are you still practicing your art?
Storytelling. I was offered a job as a paralegal after talking with a couple of attorneys about storytelling in theater and storytelling in the courtroom. I had never made the connection. I am not currently practicing theater, but aspects of my training pop up all over the place. That is the greatest thing about an arts education, it is immensely useful in Life.
Tell us your vision for the future of our arts world, especially in this pandemic, societal, and financial crisis ~
My vision for the art world (especially theater)is getting back to the core of what making art is. Telling stories. Reflecting the world. I think stripping away the artifice and getting back to acknowledging that art is an agreement between the artists and the audience, and we can allow the audience to meet us halfway. We need a future where art and artists are given their proper value and support.
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