David Prather
Actor, Teaching Artist

1) Can you tell us a little bit about what you do?
I have enjoyed an eclectic career as an actor and teaching artist for several decades.  My focus has primarily been in arts education.  As a master teaching artist for the Music Center, Segerstrom Center for the Arts and numerous other organizations, I have conducted in-classroom workshops, professional development and teacher institutes, and artist-in residence programs focusing on employing theatrical techniques to teach across curriculum—language arts, social science and science.  I have also written and performed assembly programs such as “Poetry Jam”, “Yankee Doodle Poetry”, “Bully Dudes”, and “John and Juan.”  In Burbank, where I have lived since 2000, I served as one of the directors of the Burbank Youth Summer Theatre Institute and presented fully staged productions of Shakespeare.  As a recipient of a Burbank Arts For All Foundation grant, I worked with freshman English students at Burroughs High School to explore the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., and performed my solo show “Star Spangled Poetry” for the entire freshman class.  I have performed my “Myths” program the past several years for Muir Middle School’s World Cultures Day, and worked with the English Language learners at Luther and Jordan.  For two years I took part in the arts wheel at Edison Elementary. My assembly programs have been presented at nearly all the elementary schools in Burbank and across greater Los Angeles.

I served as host for Summer Sounds at the Hollywood Bowl for eleven seasons and host of the Holiday Sing-a-long at Disney Hall for a decade.  In addition, I have created and performed or narrated numerous original programs for the L.A. Phil, the Pacific Symphony and San Francisco Symphony.  For the Music Center I host the annual Very Special Arts Festival for thousands of students with special needs.  I have also performed at various museums, including Family Days at the Getty, where I have created several original shows based on featured exhibits.  My play “When Harlem Was in Vogue” was produced by the Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas

2) How did you first become interested in art?
None of this was part of my original plan!  After graduating from Princeton University and studying for several years at American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, I moved to L.A. to pursue television and film.  However, while performing Shakespeare at the Mark Taper, I met an actor who had a troupe that performed in schools, and I immediately fell in love with the spontaneity and laughter of the young audiences.  I was soon traveling all over greater Los Angeles performing at assemblies and one thing led to another.  I had already made a life decision to forego law school for the life of an actor (to the chagrin of my corporate attorney father!)

I believe this deviation from my original plan grew out of an early profound artistic experience as a choirboy and soloist at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. where I grew up. The early exposure to sublime music in a magnificent setting, and the outlet for personal expression it afforded, stayed with me long after my voice register changed.

3) How does art enrich a community, and what are some ways people can engage with art in Burbank?
Both of my children were raised and schooled in Burbank.  Starting at Edison Elementary, they participated in marvelous variety shows that went far beyond lip synching to pop songs.  These shows were conceived and directed by dedicated, professional parents and set a very high bar, with live musical accompaniment provided by the music teacher Ms. Kreisberg.  At Jordan Middle School, both embarked on show choir with the amazing Ms. DeMore: the degree of discipline and joy instilled by this experience followed them to Burroughs and the renowned program there.  These opportunities exist for all students in Burbank, where the arts are celebrated and seen as essential to the development of well- rounded lives.  The proximity to studios and the number of parents involved in artistic careers makes Burbank a rich and responsive community for artistic enrichment and those who would pursue a career in the arts.

4) If you could share with our community one thing about art, what would it be?
I have a favorite photograph of my son and daughter singing “Anything you can do, I can do Better” in cowboy and cowgirl outfits in one of the aforementioned variety shows at Edison.  Like my days in the choir at the National Cathedral, we never know how such moments as that captured in this photo will echo later in our lives.  For some, it may provide a fond memory; for others a change in life plans.  Regardless, the opportunity to explore one’s creativity in the company of peers and caring, dedicated adults can play an essential and vital role in the growth of the individual.