DeVoe builds up the Theater Department
When Set Construction Chief Shawn DeVoe wakes up, one of the first things he does is turn on the TV and check the sports center. But if asked to choose between a Ravens game or a show at the Hippodrome, he does not answer the way people would expect him to.
“I am an athlete through and through, but I’d rather go see a show,” DeVoe said.
DeVoe has been in charge of building the sets for the theatre productions for the past eight years. Self-employed as a painter, his flexible schedule allows him to pop in and out to work on the set. Through the years, he believes he has become more “cultured” and gained a greater respect for the arts. Growing up, he was an athlete and had not gotten involved in the arts.
When his oldest son, Ryan, entered his sophomore year in 2003, DeVoe was eager to help his son. He began working for the theatre department after learning they needed help building sets. He continued to work as his youngest son, Connor, attended JC in 2007.
“I don’t think any parent realizes how much time goes into the show behind the scenes. I had no idea,” DeVoe said.
Each year, DeVoe has been able to make the sets bigger and bigger by saving pieces from old sets.
“When I started doing this eight years ago, they would pretty much just tear the set down and throw everything out, whereas I try to disassemble it and save as much as possible,” he said.
Despite the work he puts into the sets, he focuses on the actors.
“At the end of the day, everyone says no one should notice the set, they should notice what’s going on onstage,” DeVoe said.
DeVoe said he sometimes doesn’t know “how [Director of Enrollment Kim Brueggemann] and [Director of Annual Giving and Constituent Relations Laura Lang] pull it off.”
“I have been to other high school productions and honestly, the JC shows are two, three, four, five times better. Just everything, the amount of time they put into teaching kids all the dances and how they go over the littlest detail on everything,” he said.
For the last three years, DeVoe has not had a child at JC, making it difficult for him to keep working on the sets. However, he said his “loyalty and friendship” with Brueggemann and Lang has kept him going. After years of DeVoe working with Brueggemann and Lang, they have become predictable to him.
“I can sort of read their minds a little and know where they are going,” he said.
In addition to working with Brueggemann and Lang, DeVoe works with the set crew. He leaves most of the painting to the set crew while he builds.
“I’d like to let the kids do more stuff, but all the tools that are in the set room are my personal tools, and God forbid they use my tools and they get hurt. I don’t want to be liable,” DeVoe said.
DeVoe enjoys working with the kids in set crew and doesn’t like to be thought of as their “boss.”
“I’m probably not the most politically correct person sometimes, but my kids that are on the set crew are all good kids, and they appreciate my bad sense of humor sometimes,” DeVoe said.
In addition, he likes to give them nicknames that let him remember them easier. He believes that they view their nickname as a “badge of honor” that confirms their arrival into set crew.
“Mr. Devoe calls me Hurricane because a couple of years before I was born there was apparently a hurricane names Camille. Everybody else calls me Hurricane cause I get really hyper when I drink Mountain Dew,” sophomore Camille Smith said.
Senior Carol Subrowski said “Mrs. B has actually called me Pat before,” which is the nickname DeVoe gave her.
For DeVoe, it’s important to encourage all parents to get involved in some way.
“It’s a way to connect with your kids. Even though, I didn’t think there would be any way I could ever connect with my kids at this level.”
Hope Kelly is a reporter for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.