Idyllwild Arts: "Magic"

Published : Thursday, January 4, 2018 | 12:41 PM

“Sometimes you all walk off the stage and ask each other, ‘What the hell just happened?’”

Patrick O’Neill, an actor and the husband of Idyllwild Arts Academy Theatre teacher Jeanette Knight, looked pointedly at her.

“You go on without a plan. It could be a disaster. Instead—sometimes—it’s magic!”

Pride in his wife’s improvisational acting, one of the skills she has taught to Academy students, had gotten him started. Jeanette took over.

“The key is generosity. It’s about giving back to your fellow actors. When a colleague presents a situation, you don’t say ‘What are you talking about?’ You say ‘Yes, and. . .‘”

The challenge is to renounce control.

“I’ve worked with professionals who won’t make themselves that vulnerable.”

Jeanette’s extensive professional work makes her well equipped to help teenagers mature as theatrical performers. These are young people who dream about the big stage—not unlike Louise Seger, the Houston housewife with a fan’s devotion to Patsy Cline that led to an extraordinary friendship with the legendary country singer. Her portrayal of Seger in Ted Swindley’s Always. . . Patsy Cline, an hour from Idyllwild at the Indio Performing Arts Center, in 2011 and 2013, was widely acclaimed.

She is accomplished not only at both improvisational and scripted acting, but at directing, which she is teaching at the Academy this year. Organizing last July’s Joshua Tree International Improv Comedy Festival, at the Hi-Desert Cultural Center, also an hour from Idyllwild, was time-consuming, yet Jeanette will probably be able to find time to direct and/or act in at least one play there this season.

“Young people, including Idyllwild’s students, are usually pretty open to improv and other new experiences. I started as a dancer, but fell into theatre in college. I guess I was pretty open myself!”


Idyllwild Arts, 52500 Temecula Road, Idyllwild, CA 92549-0038, (951) 659-2171 or visit








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