Class of 2013
St. Johnsbury, VT
Major: Theater/Technical Theater
Favorite weekend activity: Reading, crafts, being with family and friends
Career Plans: Working backstage in a New England theater
"I like creating a world that is believable. If we've done our job correctly, then the audience can sit there for a few hours and be taken into this world, and they won't notice any of things that we do."
When Bonnie Cleverley graduates from Johnson State, she already will have a resume and web portfolio packed full of experience in technical theater, her chosen profession.
As a JSC student, she works 30 hours a week designing, painting and building sets, rigging lighting, working the sound board, setting up the stage, and managing student theater productions, dance shows and other events at the Dibden Center for the Arts. She also has worked on the stage crew for the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, Kingdom County Productions and Catamount Arts.
"Growing up, I loved going to see plays, and I always wondered how they did things. I knew in the back of my mind they weren't real. I wanted to know how they made it so believable," Bonnie recalls. "As I grew up, I knew there were people setting up this world, and I wanted to do that. Now I can't sit through a play without knowing how they did it.
"I like creating a world that is believable," she says. "If we've done our job correctly, then the audience can sit there for a few hours and be taken into this world, and they won't notice any of things that we do."
Bonnie has developed close relationships with the theater students and faculty who spend many hours rehearsing and producing several plays each year at the student-run Dibden Center. "We call ourselves the Dibden family," she says.
As a stage manager, Bonnie has been deeply involved in several student theater productions, helping the director to ensure they run smoothly.
"As stage managers, we record all of the blocking, where all the actors stand. We document when people show up and when they are late. We take all kinds of notes that the director says about the stage," she explains. "We help run production meetings to help translate the technical world into the acting world. The directors speak one language, and the actors speak another, so we have to translate."
Bonnie has appreciated the support she's received from Theater Professor Russell Longtin, who directs most of the student plays and teaches acting, directing and stage management classes, drawing on his 40-plus years of theater experience. She has worked as Russell's assistant stage manager for productions such as A Midsummer Night's Dream and Bat Boy: The Musical and co-stage manager for The Diary of Anne Frank.
Bonnie is on the right track to a bright career, continuing to build her experience while still in college. For her senior project at Johnson State, she is directing two student actors and two student stage managers in a production of Lonely Planet, a play about two gay men dealing with the AIDS epidemic in an unnamed American city in the 1980s. The play hits close to home for Bonnie; she chose it because her parents tested HIV-positive after receiving tainted blood transfusions. Her father has since died.
"We grew up with HIV in our lives," she says. "My parents were very public about it. The whole reason I did this play was because of it (my family's experience)."
As usual, Bonnie's mother will be in the audience, experiencing her daughter's believable world - and supporting her dream.