‘Wicked’ internship puts December grad Devon King behind the curtain
Aspiring stage manager says leadership, family ties defined her BG experience
By Bridget Tharp
The curtain opens to reveal a seemingly effortless stage production to those in the plush seats of the audience.
Devon King knows better. Being one of the undergraduate stage managers at Bowling Green State University means King is the center of production communications and liaison to technical teams, the director and actors. The December graduate and aspiring professional stage manager understands how hard dozens of people work backstage designing and building sets, creating perfect lighting, and casting, costuming and preparing the actors.
Now, King plans to relocate to New York City after graduation for a five-week stage production internship with the musical “Wicked” on Broadway. She hopes to spend her career paying attention to what happens behind the curtain.
“I love the collaboration you get in theater. Everything you do is a collaborative effort and everybody’s job is important,” King said. “I love watching it from start to finish, which is why I like stage managing.”
“I’ve had some really amazing mentors here, and some really great opportunities because of them.”Prepared with a bachelor’s degree in technical theater and design and a minor in arts management, King hopes to remain in the Big Apple long term to pursue further work in stage management and theater production, with support from a network of successful BGSU theater alumni and her faculty mentors.
“The faculty here is amazing,” King said. “I’ve had some really amazing mentors here, and some really great opportunities because of them.”
It takes a strong, organized leader like King in the role of stage manager to execute the details that add up to a perfect experience for the audience, BGSU theater faculty and staff said. King’s crews have overcome missing props, damaged sets and last-minute cast changes during theater productions at the University. And then there are the routine perils of scene changes: King is always aware of the risk of injury as she and the crew quickly move heavy set pieces in the dark.
Jim Dachik, manager of theater business operations at BGSU, considers King one of the best student stage managers in recent memory. Her people skills and attention to detail keep the show running well and on time, he added.
“No matter how obnoxious somebody can be to her, she will get them to do what they need to do without offending them. She does not burn bridges, is very personable, and is very accurate with what she does,” Dachik said. “I can’t say enough nice things about her. She’s been a joy. She’s going to do well.”
Theater instructor Kelly Mangan has considered King a standout student since her first year on campus. Many theater majors wait until their sophomore or junior year — when general education requirements are out of the way — before making a major commitment to join a stage crew, Mangan said.
Not King. Her outstanding work as a freshman earned her the department’s competitive, renewable “grant-in-aid” scholarship, which requires at least 300 hours of work on stage crews each semester.
“Devon always made herself available,” Mangan said. “To this day she is always there to help other people, help the faculty, and to just be there in case something needs to be done. The best kind of worker can observe what needs to be done and just do it. Devon was ready to do that when she walked in the door.”
As a mentor to King, Mangan shared her connections to regional theater in Louisville, Ky. During spring break one year, Mangan arranged several days in which King could shadow stage managers in varied performance genres that ranged from ballet to opera.
“Devon was ready to see how (professionals) work and how they tweak the rules,” Mangan said. “You learn from books. You learn from classes. Then, you have to go out and see how it’s really done.”
“Don’t be scared to go to different meetings and introduce yourself to people. There are a lot of places on campus and a lot of organizations that are really amazing.”One theater alumnus who shares that philosophy is Kevin Beebee, manager for the U.S. touring company of “Wicked.” When the tour landed in Toledo in August, Beebee offered King and other students opportunities to be backstage during the performance. King impressed Beebee and the stage managers, Beebee said.
“Based on what I heard from the faculty and staff in the theater department, and what I saw in her in a short period of time, I felt strongly that I could recommend her for the internship in New York,” Beebee said. “I’m kind of paying it forward. Someone did it for me, and I feel I should do it for someone else.”
King was already familiar with the University when she was college hunting because her uncle earned his degree here and her father, Kevin King ’80, was one of faculty emeritus and visual communication technology department founder Dr. Gene Poor’s first students in the College of Technology. Her dad was also part of the group of students who helped Poor build the downtown restaurant Easy Street, so Poor recognized King’s name when she enrolled in one of his courses. Her younger sister, Danae, is also a student, and currently editor-in-chief of the BG News.
“It’s just really cool to have that family connection,” King said, later adding: “My dad has a lot of memories from here. I actually lived in the same room in Kohl that my uncle lived in, and not by trying. It just happened. . . . And my sister actually ended up living in my dad’s old apartment, which was cool.”
The freaky coincidence of her living assignment in Kohl related to King’s involvement in the Chapman Learning Community. The award-winning leadership and learning program empowers BGSU students to design a service-learning project.
King’s group from Chapman invented arts-related activities for students from a central Toledo high school. During their several-weeks-long project, King and her peers led the teenagers in painting a public mural and invited them to campus for a theater production.
King now dreams of someday launching a nonprofit theater company to share the magic of the stage with youngsters. It’s a dream that defined itself as she explored leadership through her involvement in multiple student groups and programs at BGSU. She encourages first-year Falcons to dabble in a wide variety of organizations before defining their own goals.
“Try a ton of things,” King said. “Don’t be scared to go to different meetings and introduce yourself to people. There are a lot of places on campus and a lot of organizations that are really amazing.”