This article appeared in a June 2016 issue of the student newsletter.
Caption: News-Register | Joanna Mikolajczak –Mike McKee, in front of his sound board in the theater’s control room high above the stage at the rear of the Performance Hall.
By Kathleen Stockmier Student Publications Manager –
After 21 years, Michael McKee will soon take his final bow as North Lake College’s Technical Theatre Specialist, leaving behind some very large shoes to fill.
Since summer 1995, McKee has helped the North Lake Theatre Company achieve success by providing lighting design, set design and craftsmanship for 45 full-length productions and 40-50 one-act plays.
Two of those plays featured a house structure with a porch.
He gives credit to his predecessor, John Scott, a technical director who set the bar high in the areas of lighting and set design. Shortly after enrolling as an NLC student in fall 1986, McKee anxiously accepted the position of student assistant under Scott’s tutelage.
“I wanted to get in on how he built those sets,” said McKee. “I would wear him out with questions.”
McKee’s love for theater was fostered by his parents’ love for live productions. They began taking him to plays at a young age, and he observed the differences of each one and grew to appreciate all aspects of putting on a production on such a grand scale.
News-Register | Grant V. Ziegler –Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne (left) talks to Dr. David Evans and Alice Butler at Mike McKee’s “Going Away Reception” in the Arena Theatre May 5.
After graduating from Irving High School, he enrolled at North Lake College and auditioned for the role of Sonny in NLC’s production of
Grease. Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne was a student at that time and won the part of Rizzo in the musical. She and McKee had known each other prior to enrolling at NLC.
After two years at NLC, McKee attended Sherman’s Austin College to acquire his bachelor’s degree. He studied communications, theatre, art and photography and graduated in 1991. Then he took a full-time job with his father selling and building playground equipment for high-end residential neighborhoods.
“We worked 350 days a year, weekends and Sundays,” said McKee. “That was really stressful.”
So he quit after three years, and a string of jobs followed for the next seven months – stockbroker, car salesman, freelance photographer – until he got a call from the North Lake Theatre Department to apply for the Technical Director position made vacant by Scott, who was leaving after 17 years.
Special to the News-Register –Mike McKee when he first began working at NLC in 1995.
McKee’s first production in his new position as NLC’s Technical Director was
Steel Magnolias. After his third year in the position, he decided to return to school for his master’s degree so he could teach classes, too. He enrolled at Texas A&M-Commerce and commuted once a week for three years until he received a master’s in theatre with an emphasis in technical theatre.
The degree allowed him to teach classes in stagecraft, intro to theatre, stage makeup, lighting design and various rehearsal and performance classes.
“As the Technical Director, I’m not only concerned with theatre, but all things that relate to performance with technical issues involving light, sound and stage campus-wide, like graduation, events, dance concerts, concerts outside, speakers in the gym and more,” said McKee.
His support system at home includes wife, Jennifer, who is also an educator. She was a teacher in the Irving Independent School District for more than 20 years, and is presently the principal of Kinkeade Early Childhood. Their daughter, Macie is in the seventh grade.
News-Register | Grant V. Ziegler – Two of McKee’s biggest influences over 21+ years — John Moseley and Alice Butler — pose with him at his reception.
At NLC, his biggest supporters are Alice Butler and John Moseley, theater faculty and mentors. He has known Butler his entire life, and his stepfather is Michael Cooley, executive dean of the West Campus.
“I owe so much to Alice and John,” he said. “They have been the best part of my experience at North Lake. From Alice, sure, I learned how to teach, but she taught me about the delicate process of fostering students that often had needs that extended way beyond the college property.
“John Moseley taught me all about the pragmatic side of theatre, the day-to-day practical stuff. Both were invaluable in my academic teaching career and will remain indelible to my professional foundation.”
When asked to name his favorite play over the past two decades, he paused. “Man, I’d have to think about that.”
But it didn’t take long for him to answer. “My favorite play is
When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder? And my favorite sets were
Comedy of Errors, Bus Stop and
When NLC’s spring 2016 semester officially ends, McKee will begin his new job with Hossley Lighting Associates as project manager in the lighting controls division.
Special to the News-Register –As an NLC student in 1987, Mike McKee (far right) played Sonny in North Lake Theatre Company’s production of Grease. Also pictured are Marsha Langley and Shawn Brentham (who played Danny).
Headquartered in Dallas, the company is 100 percent employee-owned and has been in business for more than 38 years, serving two-thirds of the state of Texas.
McKee, 48, is excited about this new venture, but will miss working in the halls of academia.
“Of course, I will miss Alice and John and the students,” he said. “But I will also miss all the creativity and the collaborative process – helping students to achieve and teaching them something that they didn’t know they had in them.
“And helping them find their way. Some of them know, but many do not. And I will miss being a part of that.”