Behind the spotlight: Flagler theatre professor sheds light on working behind the scenes

Photo by Andrew McAllister. Patrick Mathis, Flagler College's newest theatre professor, did the lighting design for this production of "Big Fish." This is one of his favorite shows he has worked on.

By Alexis Bensoussan

It was during college that Patrick Mathis discovered his love for theater, only it didn’t actually come on a stage. Rather, it was while working for the Disney College Program. Whether working in the parking lot, Splash Mountain, or especially as a guide on The Jungle Cruise, he said he loved the chance to be outside all day with a microphone and telling jokes. 

Mathis, 32, is now Flagler College’s newly appointed Assistant Professor of Theatre Design and Technology. Originally from Georgia, he has worked in theater throughout the United States before coming to St. Augustine to share his knowledge and experience with students at Flagler.

“I’m super stoked to be here,” Mathis said. “These people are really cool, and they have established an amazing, growing, vibrant place, where things will only get better. It’s not every day you get to come in at the ground floor of that.”

Mathis has an MFA in Theatre Design and Technologies from Utah State University and a BS in Information Science and Technology from Mercer University. 

Mathis giving a tour for the Jungle Cruise at Disney World. Courtesy of Patrick Mathis.

But before deciding that theater was what he wanted to pursue, Mathis worked in IT and hated it.

These Disney jobs pushed Mathis into the direction of technical theater and helped him realize he could have a career in something he genuinely enjoyed. 

“It’s not the only thing I can do here. There’s lots of other stuff happening,” he said. 

Mathis’ main focuses in technical theater are lighting and sound design, though he also does projections, media design, sound engineering, scenic design and even acting.

Mathis acting in a show at The Pioneer Playhouse in Kentucky. He is a character actor, which is an actor who typically plays the eccentric or unusual types of characters in a show. Photo by Robby Henson.

“Lighting and sound is really where I live. It’s what I enjoy,” he said. “Giving light to the world is cool.”

He has been a part of numerous productions, such as “The Crucible,” “Big Fish,” “Assassins” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” to name a few. His recent favorite, however, is “The SpongeBob Musical.”

Mathis did lighting and sound design for “The SpongeBob Musical.” “It was loads of fun, incredibly heartfelt and weirdly timely with content in its inclusive, beautiful nature,” Mathis said. Photo by Ron Foreman and Robert Davezac.

Mathis is passionate about theater, and that is evident in his designs.

One aspect that Mathis appreciates is how technical theater allows creative minds to experiment and try out different things.

“I love the ephemeral nature of it,” he said. “It’s so cool how drastically we can alter things with relative ease. And I really enjoy that ability to play and manipulate, and just keep shifting things around.”

It is not just about putting a spotlight on an actor on stage. There are several elements that go into lighting a scene or adding a sound cue. 

The physical aspects of theater, such as costumes or set pieces, are elevated through lighting and sound. However, he said it can be a challenging feat.

“It’s hard to be the through-line, the thread that ties everything together,” Mathis said.

He is truly excited to be at Flagler to continue collaboratively creating art through theater while providing the students with a space that fosters a compassionate, positive and hardworking environment.

“This is a genuinely open, caring group of people that are working towards giving their best, and that’s not something that is everywhere,” Mathis said. “I am immensely thankful to be a part of it.”

Mathis is optimistic about what Flagler and its faculty brings to the students, and he feels grateful to be on board. He is especially fond of the core values – transformative learning, respectful and inclusive community, citizenship with integrity and thoughtful stewardship.

Now that Mathis is officially a part of Flagler College’s Theatre Department, he hopes to make an impact on his students not only through teaching technical theater, but also by inspiring his students to be their best.

“Seek truth, find joy and do good,” he said. “Because if you don’t, who else will? If you learn nothing else in any of my courses, that I hope you will.”

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