Robert Collins, a senior and theater production specialist at the Oakland School for the Arts, has been a dedicated Crucible member throughout his youth. Earlier, we sat down with Robert to learn about his journey at The Crucible. In this interview, staff writer Sarah Dabby sat down with Robert to discuss how working at The Crucible is shaping his future – and how he hopes to shape The Crucible’s future as well.
Sarah Dabby: We last spoke to you about your experience as a FUEGO Summer Intern. What is your role now at The Crucible?
Robert Collins: After FUEGO, I turned 18 – so now I’m able to intern on my own. I come into The Crucible every Monday and am mentored by Brian [McCoy, Welding Instructor & Head of Oxy/Acetylene Area]. In exchange for doing projects for the welding department, I’m able to build things on my own.
SD: Why Welding?
RC: Welding was not the first thing I did. When I found out about welding, I was in 10th grade, and I was doing a lot of building. My welding instructor, Maurice Cavness, told me “doing small scale things makes it easier to do large-scale things.” That helped me because I started building sets and props at school, which gave me a lot of skills to work here at The Crucible, and vice versa.
As for why I’m focusing on welding now? They call welding ‘the hot glue of metal.’ Once you get used to getting burned and being sweaty, you can make anything you can imagine, because it’s like glue. I think that’s why I’ve stuck with it.
SD: What’s your process in terms of learning how to become a welder?
RC: When I first started, my instructor Maurice’s most valuable tips were “Get in closer,” which you normally wouldn’t do because you’d be scared, at first, and, “Turn the heat up higher.” Once you get that, it’s not super complicated – it’s only a metal spew coming out, and a metal iron rod, which gets melted onto another piece of metal.
SD: How have you applied what you’ve learned at The Crucible to your technical theater work at Oakland School for the Arts?
RC: Since my school is right down the street, my connection here allows us to borrow tools from The Crucible – and The Crucible borrows some of our tools, too, which helps.
SD: You’re a graduating senior at the Oakland School for Performing Arts. What are your plans after graduation?
RC: Everyone at The Crucible has helped me figure that out. Carla Hall sat down with me for weeks at a time to talk about my plans, and wrote my letter of recommendation. I’ve come to a pretty clear decision that I want to stay out here in Oakland for two years, and then go to the Columbia College Chicago, majoring in Furniture and Fabrication.
SD: What is unique about the Columbia School for the Arts?
RC: It’s almost like a mini-Crucible inside of the school. I love the campus, how it’s in the middle of downtown, it’s close to public transportation. Everything is close by. The food, and the fact that it reminds me of home – I can relate to it more because it feels a lot like Oakland.
SD: Over the next two years, you’ll have the opportunity to work at The Crucible a lot more. What do you hope to get out of that time?
RC: Right now, seven days out of the week, I get to be here one day for four hours. After I graduate, I can just imagine I’ll be able to do so much more. Everything I do, it always contributes back to The Crucible. I know I’ll be able to help a lot here – work at the youth camps, volunteer a lot more, and maybe even get a full-time job here.
SD: Where do you see yourself five to ten years down the line?
RC: Assuming I go to Columbia College for the Arts – I feel like something may grow out of that. Columbia lets you do internships while you’re in school, and I think maybe I might get something out of an internship and stay there.
But… my dream goal is to build something like The Crucible somewhere else. What surprised me about The Crucible is that people come from all over the world to be here – New Orleans, Mexico. I was shocked to realize there’s only one Crucible. This place is really amazing, and I don’t see why there’s only one, and why people from really have to come from far away to be here. So I think that’s my dream, is to build sister Crucible’s.
Whatever I do, I want to contribute back to The Crucible.