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"A moment with ... Mike McVey"

01/05/2012

Mike McVey
"A moment with ..." is a Q-and-A column featuring Miami employees.

Today, take "A moment with ... Stephen Michael McVey, or Mike McVey as he is known on campus," who for 20 years, has served as technical director at Finkelman Auditorium on Miami Middletown's campus. He has also taught an "experiencing theatre" class for 20 years, with his two roles being officially combined about 15 years ago. With a natural stage voice, McVey is also an actor, musician, photographer and juggler (of things and time).

Q: What does a theatre technical director do?
A: I book entertainment, rentals, outside shows; I’m the stage manager. It’s my job to make things run smoothly and safely, and to get as much of the customers’ expectations fulfilled and go beyond that as well, if I can. I end up spending more time with off-campus groups. I’m there evenings and weekends. We host 8-10 dance school recitals per year. We’ve done beauty pageants, step dancing, speakers.

Q: How does learning on stage complement learning in a classroom?
A: I’m a believer in acting and theatre faculty to continue to do outside design and acting work. One of the ways to train students is to see faculty on stage or to be on stage with them.

What’s gratifying is when a student comes back after 20 years and says “You told me something and I haven’t been able to disprove it.” I love teaching. It’s the best of all possible worlds on the regionals, because with nontraditional students, you have ages that range from 16-60 and if you’re talking about marriage, for instance, in a play, you can have different perspectives. We did “A Doll’s House” and the young females said, “It’s all Nora’s fault. He mistreated her before they were married; she should have left.” There was a woman in class, about 60, who said “Honey, you don’t know any man until you’ve lived with him 6 months.”

Q: What are you still learning as technical director?
A: I’m a theatre generalist, lighting, technical; I can direct, act, design and build a set. I try to keep learning the way Katherine Hepburn did – even between actual filming or periods of activity, there are opportunities to learn from the other people around you. So that even the act of waiting becomes a learning situation.

Finkelman is undergoing renovations this year*, but we also generally host a body building competition twice annually. For me it was educational to learn that a lot of the participants are doctors and lawyers and professional people – it’s about health and wellness for them.

*By May, Dave Finkelman Auditorium, which opened in 1969, will re-open with new seating, larger restrooms and renovations to make the building ADA compliant.

Q: When did the theatre bug bite?
A:I started out in speech and hearing therapy with a theatre minor at Ball State. After a year and a half I realized I was spending all my time in the theatre department. I became a speech ed. and theatre double major and later taught drama and speech in high school for six years. I do realize I enjoy the attention. I’m comfortable with that and I know when to sit down.

Q: In what productions would we have seen you?
A: I’ve performed with Miami’s Summer Theatre, The Human Race Theatre and Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, CCM [where McVey earned an MFA in dramatic performance] and regional theatres in Indiana over the years.

I was in a college mime troupe that was invited to “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” The university said we couldn’t miss class to do it. We skipped anyway and drove to Pittsburgh. We went, sat, feeling shy during rehearsals, but Fred (Rogers) broke the ice. We had two prepared sketches, which we performed. And we did some improv with Fred, without speaking, when he asked, “Could you pretend to be riding a bus?” And we did. I regret that I cashed that $25 check with Fred’s name and a red trolley on it.

Editor's note: McVey was the producer of Miami’s Summer Theatre program in its last year, 2004. McVey, a long-time board member of the Oxford Area Community Theatre (www.oxact.org), is directing the one-act comedies "Next" by Terrence McNally and "Adaptation" by Elaine May. They will be performed Feb. 16-19 and Feb. 23-25 at the Oxford Community Arts Center.

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