Vicki Whooper, a Dominican University alum and Bellwood native, is assistant stage manager of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical A Strange Loop. | Courtesy Dominican University
It was during her sophomore year at Dominican University that Vicki Whooper (Class of 2011) found her calling as a stage manager.
“Krista Hansen, the current chair of the department, approached me and said, ‘I think you’d make a great stage manager,’” Whooper recalled. “I didn’t even know what that was! But once I learned about it, I thought, ‘This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my career.’”
Her prediction is coming true. Whooper is now riding a wave of professional success as an assistant stage manager of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical A Strange Loop.
A native of Bellwood, Whooper graduated from Dominican with a bachelor’s degree in theater and worked behind the scenes on productions like Into the Woods, the Wiz, Macbeth and Noises Off, among others. When she is not working on A Strange Loop, Whooper is an assistant arts professor of stage management with New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Q: Where were you when you learned A Strange Loop had received 11 Tony nominations this year?
A: I was in Washington D.C., lying in bed, watching the livestream of the nominations announcement and just screaming! (Laughs). We expected a few, like most shows do — we thought “We’ll probably get two or three.” No way did we think 11. That was a dream.
Q: Did you attend the Tony Awards?
A: Not the award show proper, but we had a beautiful viewing party. Those of us who couldn’t attend the award show packed the viewing party and we were on pins and needles all night.
Q: What was the most memorable part of working on A Strange Loop?
A: The most memorable part for me is being in a show with a cast full of Black, queer artists. I’ve been stage-managing in some capacity since my time at Dominican, even when I got to grad school and entered the professional sector in 2016, and I can count on one hand the number of shows I’ve done with an all-Black company. The number is two. It’s both beautifully empowering, but sad at the same time.
Q: Do you think the attention that A Strange Loop has received will open up the door to more productions with all-Black casts?
A: God, I hope so. I hope it makes space for new Black voices. No shame to August Wilson, but there are only so many times we can do Fences in this industry. I am hoping this show opens people’s eyes and minds to the fact that the Black experience is not a monolith. It can’t be sanitized down to one experience. We need to hear the vastness of the ways in which Black people, people of color and queer people move through this world.
Q: What does an assistant stage manager do?
A: What don’t we do?! (Laughs). For me, as second assistant stage manager, I’m here to help with all the things that happen off stage and backstage. I oversee, manage, facilitate all the set changes that happen with our phenomenal crew, making sure set changes and costume changes happen on time. If actors need anything in a moment, I’m there to assist with that. I’m there as an additional set of eyes should things need to be double-checked or trouble-shot in a moment. There’s a lot of day-to-day tasks making sure schedules are updated and posted, emails are sent, reports are done — and that there are ample snacks because we love a snack!