O’Brien, Helen

Helen O’Brien

UW Extension Drama Specialist – Pioneer

In Memoriam

Helen O’Brien, Spring Green, WI, was instrumental in the creation of  Wisconsin State 4-H Drama Company and 4-H Showcase Singers.  Helen fostered the love of theatre and performing in 4-H youth from the 1960s-1980s.  She served as the UW-Extension Drama Specialist and Assistant Professor of Arts Development for the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

She mentored and directed 20 youth musicians and actors, members of the State Music and Drama Troupe.  Together they created a performance presented throughout the state including the Wisconsin State Fair.

Helen traveled the state facilitating music and drama workshops introducing youth to the arts.  Helen helped 4-H clubs as they developed their plays and skits. She provided guidance and feedback to youth on how to bring characters to life, make easy costumes and create memorable stage backdrops & props.

When the National 4-H Center built the theater on-site in Chevy Chase, Maryland, they consulted with Helen. Her expertise influenced the theater design, ensuring an open concept for audience engagement and view. 

Helen was known as a wonderfully colorful, extremely creative, and kind woman, who impacted many lives through her work.  People remember Helen inspiring youth, “Acting is a gift you make of yourself to the audience.”