It’s Alive! Well, History, That Is

Montclair Resident and Actor, Patrick Garner, Brings History’s Most Influential Players to Life Through His Educational and Captivating Performances

Patrick Garner's "History's Alive" // Graphics Courtesy of Patrick Garner
Patrick Garner’s “History’s Alive” // Graphics Courtesy of Patrick Garner

Patrick Garner brings an entirely new meaning to the phrase “history lesson.” The distinguished actor and Montclair resident earned his BA in acting from the University of Michigan, and eventually his MFA from Southern Methodist University, and has an additional 35 years of experience under his belt as a New York actor.

Now, Garner tours both locally and around the United States, embodying different historical figures and bringing his unique act to elementary schools. Using his incredible acting experience, that ranges from “street fairs to Broadway,” Patrick Garner teaches young students amazing details about Thomas Edison, Lewis and Clark, Harry Houdini, the list goes on. Patrick Garner has the gift of bringing history to life.

Garner as the Great Inventor, Thomas Edison // Photo Courtesy of Patrick Garner
Garner as the Great Inventor, Thomas Edison // Photo Courtesy of Patrick Garner

Through Patrick Garner’s “History’s Alive” show, elementary school students become immersed in the history, as opposed to absorbing it in a classroom. The show is interactive as well as informative, keeping the audience of both teachers and students fully engaged throughout the entire performance.

The Montclair Dispatch spoke with Patrick Garner about his career, and what led him down this particular path.

“About 15 years ago I was trying to supplement our family’s income. I was a working actor, but unfortunately not a star! A friend suggested Educational Theatre. I researched it online and thought, “I’m not a folk singer or a former circus clown. All I can do is act!” I liked history. And Edison, my first show, didn’t sing or dance. It was a natural choice. My kids were at the Rand Elementary School. I asked around for help. One parent, Mark Sweeney, offered to design a flyer. Another, Mark Blackman, offered to help with the initial mailing. A friend at the NY Times offered to shop the idea around his offices. And Joan Moriarty, principal at Rand, allowed me to do a free tryout for her students. It took off from there. Networking in Montclair is incredible!”

As is expected, he was always a little bit of a history buff. “I’m not reading history books all the time. But I do like to find a famous person and learn as much as I can from their life. There’s always a reason they’re historic. They solve problems. Huge problems! But they’re people just like you and me with as many faults as virtues. I try to pass that excitement onto my student audiences. I try to give them role

Patrick Garner and his Audience Portraying the Lewis and Clark Expedition // Photo Courtesy of Patrick Garner
Patrick Garner and his Audience Portraying the Lewis and Clark Expedition // Photo Courtesy of Patrick Garner


Patrick Garner is consistently thrilled with performing at elementary schools. His favorite moments are, “When some kid comes up after a show, say the Edison show, and says ‘I want to be an inventor’.”

With such a unique and entertaining act, it is no surprise that Mr. Garner’s shows are so well reviewed. The Montclair Dispatch spoke with Evelyn Colon, who teaches fifth grade at the Charles H. Bullock Elementary school.

“We have had him come to Charles H. Bullock Elementary every year for the last 5 years. Students are engaged and entertained by Mr. Garner’s educational performances. He incorporates students as historical characters or in a call and response component of his shows. For instance, when he came to Bullock to do his Benjamin Franklin show, he had student’s call out “Never give up” every time Franklin faced a hardship. The children loved it! He also welcomes questions, about history, acting, and his realistic props, from students at the end of his performance. He adds a special component to our 5th grade Social Studies curriculum.

History's Alive // Photo Courtesy of Patrick Garner
History’s Alive // Photo Courtesy of Patrick Garner

Lastly, I appreciate Mr. Garner’s professional and friendly demeanor. He always reaches out to me at the beginning of the school year and consistently follows up to schedule our show.”

Patrick Garner’s unique method of teaching history to the next brilliant minds is very effective. He engages his audience of students in a way that cannot always be achieved in a classroom. Whether he’s Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, or Harry Houdini, Patrick Garner’s shows are always educational and entertaining.


If you are interested in booking Patrick Garner for your next school assembly, click here.


The author of the article is a Montclair native class of 2017, currently a student at McGill University, studying history and communications within the Faculty of Arts.

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