Beyond Emancipation

Patrick: From Foster Care to Fabulous

Patrick Burns sat down to write his one-man show, “From Foster Care to Fabulous,” which he has since performed all over the country, while still an undergrad.

“I was in a school with 28,000 students and like 12 foster care alumni,” Patrick says, “so when I talked about foster care, people didn’t get it…so I started writing down all these stories.”

Patrick Burns (Rt) after hosting a great story telling workshop at B:E.

Patrick Burns (Rt) after hosting a great story telling workshop at B:E.

The show had a hugely successful run in August 2016 at the New York International Fringe Festival. Using a talk show format with musical numbers throughout, the show, which Patrick also produced, tells the story of his experience in foster care, beginning when he was a freshman in high school.

He performed the show, called by one reviewer “heartbreaking, hysterical, and winsome,” in Alaska in 2009 as a benefit for B:E, which Patrick, now 30, credits with helping him get into college.

In the early days of B:E – shortly before the organization evolved from the ILSP Auxiliary – Patrick participated in B:E’s college and financial aid workshops.

“That was so helpful,” he says. “When I asked at my high school for help with the FAFSA, they basically said: ‘Good luck!’”

He earned a full-ride scholarship to UC Irvine, where he completed a drama degree with honors and a quadruple emphasis in acting, musical theater performance, directing, and musical direction.  A professor advised him to focus but Patrick had other plans. “It’s really helpful to be multi-faceted,” he says. “The more skills you have to get by…the better.”

After a three-year stint as resident musical director at the Red House Arts Center in Syracuse, NY – during which time he was named Musical Director of the Year twice by the SALT (Syracuse Area Live Theater) awards ­– Patrick is now living and working in theater in New York City.

Patrick Burns: From Foster Care to Fabulous | Courtesy of .patrickburns.me

Patrick Burns: From Foster Care to Fabulous | Courtesy of patrickburns.me

He advises young people to look at every skill they have and see what can be an asset.  He learned how to play the piano in high school, and now earns money as an accompanist to pay bills in between acting and directing gigs.

“Sometimes when you don’t have a support system,” says Patrick, “like for many teenagers in foster care, the idea of getting your basics lined up in order for you to figure out what your dream is can be so overwhelming that it doesn’t seem doable.”

“I think it’s really important to trust that you don’t have to have the whole plan figured out,” he says.  “You have to just jump in sometimes.”

One of our earliest participants, Patrick is now a big supporter of B:E. He has utilized his many talents to raise funds for our programs as well as leading writing workshops.

He encourages young people in foster care “not to be afraid to ask for what you need. Don’t convince yourself that because you haven’t gotten what you deserve that you don’t deserve to get it.”