20 Under 40: Conor O'Brien

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“What could be worse than getting to the end of your life and realizing you hadn’t lived it,” mused Conor O’Brien.”

As co-founder and executive director of the Scranton Fringe Festival, O’Brien, 25, is responsible for leading the development of the overall vision of the festival to promote Scranton as a viable and creative environment. The festival is held annually across several days in multiple venues throughout downtown Scranton. Theatre, music, dance, film, comedy, puppetry and every other sort of performing-arts production are welcomed on the fringe.

In addition, O’Brien is responsible for raising both funds and awareness. “I work with an incredible team of individuals and it’s always a pleasure to help artists take their work from conception to public performance. For nearly six years, starting at 17, O’Brien served as the co-director of The Vintage and is an alumni of Leadership Lackawanna. He has grown artistically by working with the historic Living Theater and other Manhattan-based companies including The Under The Radar Festival at the Public Theater.

O’Brien received the award for Best Actor of the 2014 Pittsburgh Fringe Festival and has toured as an actor to such cities as Kansas City, Missouri (Prophecy of The Teen Sleuth, City Stages) and numerous times as an improviser/sketch performer to the Philadelphia Improv Theatre. He has performed in productions of “Pride & Prejudice” (EC Magazine Best Production of 2013), “Last Cocktail Party of Venus,” “Hamlet” and other works produced by The New Vintage Ensemble. He has performed with the Scranton Shakespeare Festival (“Romeo & Juliet”) as well as with The Actors Company Theatre (“Aresenic & Old Lace”), which was named the Wall Street Journals Company of 2012.

He said he owes so much to so many people and notes that his sister Maggie O’Brien, regional manager for the Make A Wish Foundation, is his go-to mentor, both as an artist and non-profit administrator. “It was she who first introduced me to theater.”

The young man attributes his success in part to good fortune, however, a great deal of credit must go to his very supportive family, where he was taught the importance of commitment, tolerance and compassion. His father was involved in civics for many years, his mother instilled his love of art and literature, and he received support from his brother, Casey and niece, Anna.

O’Brien is a 2011 SAGE award winner for Young Entrepreneur; 2014 Best Actor, Pittsburgh Fringe Festival; a member of the New Vintage Ensemble and president of the AFA Gallery.

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