Playing It Right: Saint Leo Alum & Army Vet Now Produces Stage Shows
Saint Leo alum and Army vet Owen Robertson shares his story of a career in the arts.
Owen Robertson has always had a passion for performance art. The 49-year-old native of Washington, D.C. is a proud alumnus of Saint Leo University and Army veteran. He now resides in Seminole Heights, Fla. near Tampa where he operates his own business.
The military vet spent four years in the Army as a warrant officer doing criminal investigatory work from 1986 to 1990. He was stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and was also deployed to the Caribbean and Central America.
"I graduated 512th out of 516 in my high school class," he confides. "I set myself up for a lack of options. But I learned a lot from being in the military and turned myself around."
Robertson came to Saint Leo University in April 2011 and originally was an online student before switching to on-campus studies.
"I found out about the dramaturgy program," he says. "Even as a nontraditional student, I loved being there and did my best to integrate with my fellow students."
He adds that Dr. Kathryn Duncan and Dr. Kurt Van Wilt were his two favorite professors. One of Dr. Duncan's classes influenced the creation of his play Creating Monsters, about Mary Shelley's creation of Frankenstein, which he wrote two years later. He has been an adjunct instructor at the university as well.
Robertson completed his BA in English with a focus on dramaturgy in 2013 and then went on to earn an MFA with a concentration in writing for stage and screen. He's now pursuing a PhD in education.
His son, Jonah, is currently attending Saint Leo. He says he really didn't have an influence on his son's decision to earn his degree there where he's now a double major in English and literary studies.
"We talked about it, and we wanted him to do what he truly wanted to do," he says. "He really wanted to go to Saint Leo."
Saying that he's worn multiple hats in his career is an understatement for Robertson. For nearly three decades, he has done acting, directing, writing, set designing and teaching for both stage performances and film.
In 2015, he launched Lab Theatre Company, an education-oriented production company in the Tampa Bay area.
"I decided to start this as kind of a combination of my career and personal life working as an actor and director in Washington, D.C. and the Tampa Bay area," he explains. "It's a lot of fun to do and a lot of hard work and dedication."
The company produces three stage shows per year. The current season's theme is on aging, and the shows range from a woman who cares for her mother-in-law with dementia to a glimpse into the final days of Albert Einstein's life to an aging actor with Alzheimer's.
"My job is to take a playwright's vision and bring it to life for the very first time.
It's all about the journey each story takes. I always work to protect the playwright's vision of the play while collaborating with directors to add their artistic interpretation of the work."
Lab Theatre Company also provides educational programs to new and aspiring actors, directors, stage managers, writers and others involved in the arts.
He believes there is quite a disparity between performing on camera compared to on stage.
"Film is very much staged, and you have to be able to recreate your parts so precisely over and over again," he says. "On stage, things happen in the moment, and being in front of a live audience is very different."
He says he's found some inspiration from the works of Eugene O'Neil, Arthur Miller, Wendy Graff, George Bernard Shaw and JT Rodgers.
Photo credit: The photograph included in this blog post was provided by Owen Robertson and is used with permission.