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Driven to Dramatic Excellence: Paul Carbonell Receives Theatre Seats Chair Award

Friday, September 26, 2014

Paul Carbonell v2This is the first in a series of four Endowed Teaching Chair 2014 stories.

With his passionate blend of the dramatic and the pragmatic and his relentless dream to elevate the Polk State College Theatre Department to greatness, Paul Carbonell has been the driving force behind the outstanding growth of Polk State Theatre. His dedication to making this dream come to fruition has earned him the prestigious Endowed Teaching Chair – Theatre Seats Chair Award for 2014.

Under Paul’s leadership since 2009 as a theatre and speech instructor and the theatre department coordinator, Polk State’s theatre program has expanded from a more modest-sized theatre club of two people to a full-fledged, thriving department. Greatly expanding its course offerings and creating theatre productions with outstanding quality and professionalism that have been attracting audiences in droves, Polk State Theatre has truly soared since Paul has been on board.

As these productions have been garnering acclaim and awards, including the FSCAA (Florida College System Activities Association) award, student enrollment in the program has climbed significantly.

In the process, Carbonell has helped to create many jobs for professional theatre artists: directors, designers, choreographers, production and stage managers, technicians and performers.

“I’m humbled and proud at the same time – mostly humbled,” said Carbonell. “It’s amazing that it’s gotten this far, and it’s being regarded with respect from people within the discipline. We adjudicated three shows last year and we did great on all of them. That was gratifying and validating,” he added. “I could not have done it without the enthusiastic support of the administration, the Foundation, the Fine Arts faculty and staff, OCPA and most importantly, our talented students.”

Carbonell, who holds a Master of Fine Arts in Acting/Directing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has over 20 years of professional acting experience, has earned the respect and fondness of students and faculty alike for his zeal, dedication and expertise.

“He is engaging, detailed, knowledgeable, but most especially enthusiastic,” said production designer Stephen Packard.

Among the most recent of the high quality productions he and his colleagues have produced are Romeo & Juliet, Richard III, The Star-Spangled Girl, and To Be Young, Gifted & Black. In 2013-14, the theatre department led the way for Polk State’s Fine Arts cultural offerings with the most student, staff and community audience attendance numbers of any recent events. And Polk State Theatre now hosts the ALL COUNTY Theatre Festival, which is a theatre festival that creates an opportunity for recognition and awards for over 300 Polk County middle and high school theatre students.

Preparing Polk State students to transfer into a university or conservatory theatre training program has been a top priority for Paul.

“Over the last couple of years we’ve been able to get many students into the Bachelor of Fine Arts programs at several colleges, and every year there is always at least a handful of people working at Legoland or Disney or Universal. They’re performers; they’re working in the business.”

Paul always drives home to his students that, to transform a dream into reality and launch a drama career, it’s essential to strike that perfect balance between having stardust in your eyes, and your feet firmly planted on the ground.

“Unfortunately, when students with acting degrees get a job, it’s considered a miracle. And I don’t think it needs to be that miraculous,” said Paul. “Basically, if you want to work in the business, and you work hard at it, learning and incorporating acting techniques, you’ll find work.”

“My primary goal is to spark that interest in learning. Then I can see the light bulb go on, and something really changes and it turns into a direction for their lives,” said Paul.

He was excited to utilize the funds from his Endowed Teaching Chair award this summer to visit Ireland, Portugal, and Spain, experiencing theatre in three different cultures.

“It was phenomenal – a lifelong dream come true. I got to experience things that I had read about and been intrigued by. I saw plays at the Gate Theatre and the Abbey Theatre, two of the most perennial theatres in the English speaking world. Amazing!”

“I’m very grateful to the Polk State College Foundation for an opportunity that would not have happened without this Endowed Teaching Chair award,” he added.

The knowledge, wonder and excitement that Paul experienced on this incredible trip is something he is enthusiastically sharing with his students. And he encourages them to pursue a career in theatre because it brings them this kind of happiness.

“I tell my students, if you find joy in what you’re doing, keep doing it.”