Phil Klapwyk '89
I smile every time I hear Everything She Does is Magic. My wife asks me why, and I try to explain what the Calvin Thespians meant to me, and I’m sure she doesn’t understand, but she smiles as if I’m touched in some way. I think I am, and those Thespians from the 80’s will agree.
Back in the fall of 1985, I made a mistake filling out a form at the very first meeting for the improv club in the FAC. I scratched it out and wrote “Oops” beside my error. I regretted that little mistake for four years. When Professor Korf greets you in front of your friends and family as “Oops” you know that an unfortunate nickname has stuck.
I’ve lost the moniker, but since then I’ve been almost religious about filling out forms and paperwork.
Which basically explains my life since Calvin. I left Grand Rapids in 1989, and headed deep into the heart of America – Columbia, Missouri where I discovered that this attention to detail had a specific application. In 1991 I was awarded a Master of Arts “With Distinction” from the Theatre Department at the University of Missouri-Columbia. My mentor’s at Mizzou explained that my answers on my comprehensive exams were excellent and proved that I had a certain mastery of the subject matter at hand. I knew the truth resided in my fear of screwing up and getting another nickname!
I spent two more years at Mizzou, ostensibly pursuing a PhD in Theatre with an emphasis on Theory and Philosophy – (I was developing a system for understanding drama based on spatial perception and representation as written and inferred by modern American playwrights) – but in actuality I was designing lighting for every production that I could weasel my way in on.
After countless boxes of Macaroni and Cheese, I packed up and returned to the Cold North, land of endless opportunity, and a real job that my brother in law had arranged for me. It wasn’t long, however before I fell back into theatre as a Production Manager with the Edmonton Fringe Festival and then as a General Manager with a small theatre company called Rapid Fire Theatre. Back to theatre, back to Mac and Cheese.
In 1993, I was offered a job as a Production Manager with a Corporate Event Company in Vancouver, BC which seemed like a giant opportunity. It turned out not to be, but did lead me to a vibrant, but small, theatre community. I worked with a Christian Theatre company called Pacific Theatre who had just opened their small professional space in the basement of an Anglican Church Building. Back to Mac...
One day I received a phone call from a “Best Boy” who was looking for someone to work as a “Genny Op” on a movie. He asked me if I was available...
Fifteen years later, and I’ve got a career in Film. Something I never set out to do happened to me when I wasn’t looking. I’ve worked on giant blockbuster films like “Dreamcatcher” and “Chronicles of Riddick” as well as TV shows like “The X-Files” and “The Chris Isaak Show”, countless TV commercials and even Rock Videos. I’ve held every position within the Lighting Department on these shows, and have started to realize that success may not necessarily be measured by pay grade or job title, but by contentment. That and a good box of Mac and Cheese.
When I think back to my college days and try to trace its influence through my career, one thing that Korf said to me back when I was a sophomore resounds and rings true.... “It’s hard to make a living in Theatre, but don’t be afraid of it.” Korf encouraged me to make sure that my education was broad based and well rounded so that I could handle anything life threw at me. That has stuck with me throughout my career and has never come so clear to me as when I was on my back under a truck trying to figure out the hydraulic tail gate system so we could get on with our day. I figured it out, not because I was a whiz with mechanics, but because I wasn’t afraid of learning how to do it....
Some of my favourite memories from Calvin include “The Diviners,” playing euchre in the coffee shop, the inaugural season of CVN – with me as an incredibly rigid sports anchor, Exploding Armadillos at every single improv performance, the opening of the Lab Theatre with our one – act plays – (I directed “Sittin’” starring David Groen), the Theatre house down in Easttown, the way my good friends helped me quit smoking, and all the time I spent with true friends.