It’s All in the Details: an artist’s journey from stage to set

Photo courtesy of Greer King (C’21).

Mandy Moe Pwint Tu
Executive Staff

In elementary school, Greer King (C’21) hated playing sports. Because her parents were athletic in high school, there was an unspoken understanding between King and her siblings that they would at least try out for something athletic. She tried soccer for one season, played volleyball in seventh grade, and did cheerleading in eighth grade.

“I was never an athlete,” she recalled. “None of my siblings are athletic. None of us did sports. It wasn’t even like we were trying to rebel.”

King, a Theatre Arts and English double major at Sewanee, began her dramatic career in seventh grade through an organization called Forensics, a club that focuses on competitive speech. With Forensics, she traveled around her home state of Arkansas, competing in poetry and prose events. Her favorite section, however, was humorous interpretation, which was a one-person performance of several characters in a comedic play.

“It’s super fun, but it’s very tiring at the end of each round,” she said. “It was a ten-minute piece so it seems like forever and you’d be sweating by the end of it.”

King won trophies for her humorous interpretations and by the time she reached high school, she was the state champion. In tenth grade, she joined the drama program and got cast as one of 30 Lost Boys in Cabot High School’s production of Peter Pan. By the time she graduated, she worked her way up to Elle Woods in a production of Legally Blonde: The Musical.

When she arrived in Sewanee, she was uncertain as to whether she should pursue theatre. She didn’t visit the Tennessee Williams Center (TWC) when she came, and she did not know what to expect from the theatre program here. But with the Fellowship of the Arts, a scholarship offered by the University, and the promise of becoming more well-versed in the technical aspects of theatre, a set of skills King did not learn in high school, she decided that Sewanee would be a good fit for her interests.

“It’s helped me grow because it will make me more marketable,” she said. “Do you know how many people are out there who just want to act? It’s very competitive. I feel like [now] I’m a very multifaceted theatre person.”

She was prop master for Anton in Show Business and worked with Alena Kochinski (C’18) as assistant stage manager on The Crucible. She credits Kochinski with teaching her about “what goes on backstage for shows and how much work is put in by the people that aren’t onstage to make a show happen, to make a show good.” Since then, she has performed in Cabaret and co-directed Lone Star with Liam Corley (C’20)  in December 2018, which sparked in her a love of directing.

“I loved the organizational aspect of directing and I feel I’m really good at that,” she explained. “I’m also good at motivating people.”

She hopes to take Advanced Directing with Dr. Pete Smith in the spring of her junior year. In the meantime, King is working in the costume shop at the TWC and taking a costume design class with Jennifer Matthews. She is learning how to sew and to assemble costumes,  which emphasizes the importance of costumes in theatre.

“I find pleasure in the nittiest grittiest of details, and the costumes are the things that are closest to the actor,” said King. “It makes the person, you know? If the character’s wearing the wrong costume, then the show is all wrong.”

When asked about her career goals, King stated that she would like to teach in a school setting. Although still uncertain about whether she will pursue her master’s in education or in fine arts, she expressed interest in teaching high school students, particularly at a public school where students would not have enough opportunities to participate in the arts. Ideally, she would teach acting and costuming, and direct the shows that go on during the school year.

“I love high school age kids; I think there’s a lot of potential there,” King said. “They’re still in that age where you can mold them and make a lasting impression on them in a good way.”

“Theatre’s so weird,” she continued. “I don’t know what the appeal is, but I love it. I love the details. I love being able to watch something, and see something from the beginning of the creative process go from bare bones to a fully developed show. You’re able to explore the human condition in a way that’s very creative.”