Patrick Scully Contains Multitudes

Editor’s note: As the national platform for Springboard for the Arts, Creative Exchange has long been a platform to highlight the artists, resources, and efforts in our national network. In this pandemic, as Springboard for the Arts’ work is increasingly online and accessible nationally, we’ll be turning the spotlight on Springboard staff and our Artist Career Consultants, to share more about who we are, and the work we do. Enjoy!

Patrick Scully works in performing arts and has extensive experience in creating work, running a nonprofit, and creating space for LGBTQ people to live life on their own terms. In 1986, he founded Patrick’s Cabaret, a long-running, queer-friendly performance space that offered space for experimentation and new work creation. He is on the Springboard for the Arts Artist Career Consultants roster, sharing his insight and expertise on theater, performance, and organizational development. You can learn more about him and his work at and check out facebook for Patrick’s page, and for Patrick’s Cabaret.

Share a little about your creative practice.
I started my life in the arts as a dancer, and from there reached one foot into theater. I lost my balance and landed on my butt in performance art. Home at last! From there I have crawled and rolled into film and video, storytelling and installation art. It’s all really the same thing, just different materials. I find my sources for all of it by getting quiet in unstructured free time, and I follow the discoveries from there.

I began Patrick’s Cabaret as a way to get my work on stage on my own terms, and at the same time supporting other artists in this process. I understand now that the cabaret was truly creating a more democratic environment for the local performing arts. Perhaps even Marxian, putting controls in the hands of the workers. There was a symbiotic relationship between my career as a performing artist and my life as the founder and director of Patrick’s Cabaret. I had a stage I could perform on whenever I wanted, and that stage grew in importance as my performing career took off.  The opportunity/challenge of being the master of ceremonies, and improvising a monologue for each show was a delightful discipline for me. There was a downside, most of the time the psychic energy, combined with the actual physical work required to run Patrick’s Cabaret did not leave me with as much time and energy as I would like to have had for my own performing work. So, in 2009, when I left the cabaret, I left to be able to re-dedicate my time to my own performing work. That was, after all, why I got into the arts in the first place, not to be an administrator, but to be a performer.

At that time I was also very interested in the idea of sustainability. How could I create performing work that would have a sustained lifespan, as opposed to something that would happen one night or one weekend, and then never get to happen again? I launched into researching Walt Whitman, and my intuition told me that this was a subject that was deep enough and rich enough that I could potentially perform it for the rest of my life. I started research, and it took me about ten years- ten joyful years. And it has been successful, this attempt to make something sustainable. I’ve performed Leaves of Grass – Illuminated more than any other show I’ve ever done. And it feeds my soul, particularly when I take this show, with its out gay content, to places like small towns in rural Minnesota. As I’ve done much of my life, I get to create space for LGBTQ people to live life on their own terms. Now, I just do it with Walt Whitman’s story, instead of my autobiography.

Twelve Contra Dances (1984)Twelve Contra Dances (1984), choreographed by Remy Charlip. Photo credit: John Wulp.

How did you start working with Springboard for the Arts?
Years ago Resources and Counseling for the Arts (Springboard’s founding name) offered a workshop on Founders’ Syndrome. I was a founder (Patrick’s Cabaret) and thought, “Hmmm, what’s this? Maybe there is something I should know.” So, I took the workshop. That’s how I first engaged with what became Springboard.

What are projects that you have going right now or an idea in the making? What’s a project you’d like to see happen?
I am working on a new show, it has a working title of The 3rd Act. It’s about figuring out how to embrace getting old in our ageist, youth obsessed society. (I’ll soon be 67). I have a goal of getting “Leaves of Grass – Illuminated” to every county in Minnesota. I’m about 1/2 way to that goal. As the pandemic continues, I expect to continue to produce Patrick’s Cabaret online.

What’s something you wish others knew about you?
Two things, local filmmaker Mark Wojahn is making a documentary film about my life and work. I feel both flattered, and validated. If you like my work, I hope you will support Mark in getting this done. If you feel inclined to donate, Film North is his fiscal agent.

I am most excited when I am faced with a challenge of doing something new, something where I don’t really know how to go about doing it, but I trust that I’ll be able to figure it out as I go along. That really gets me excited to get out of bed in the morning.

Leaves of Grass – IlluminatedLeaves of Grass – Illuminated at the Guthrie Theater. Photo credit: Mark Wojahn.

Springboard Resources
Artist Career Consultants, available for virtual consultations:
Work of Art: Business Skills for Artists toolkit:

Header photo credit: Mark Sauer.