It was during her sophomore year at Dominican University that Vicki Whooper ’11 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 

“Whatever your dream is, keep chasing it — you’ll get there,” Whooper recommends. “It was a very circuitous route to Broadway, but I never questioned it. I knew I wanted to work on a Broadway show at some point, so I trusted that whatever path I had to get there was going to get me there.”

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 really 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!

I’m also the intimacy liaison on the show. There is one scene in particular that does have sexual violence involved …. My job nightly is to watch the scene and if anything in the choreography is off, it’s my job to maintain the choreography as it was set by choreographer Chelsea Pace.

Q: What stands out to you about your education at Dominican?

A: It taught me to be a well-rounded collaborator. As part of the curriculum, regardless of what your concentration was inside your major, you had to do practicums in every department to learn what everyone else does. That is so beneficial. As you step into this industry, the more knowledge you can have about what everyone’s process is, the better that is for you. It makes you a better collaborator and human …. I loved my four years there. If I could go back and do undergrad at Dominican again, I would.