This article was originally published in the spring 2013 Harker Quarterly.
From Hollywood to the Big Apple, two of Harker’s musical theater certificate graduates have gone on to pursue exciting acting careers, taking them both on stage and in front of the camera. Kim Wong ‘05 and D.J. Blickenstaff ‘09 are rapidly making their marks in show biz.
Most recently, Wong, now an actor and theater company founder/co-owner in New
York City, took time out to head to Los Angeles where she shot a bit part in the new, much hyped NBC television drama “Deception.”
“For the first time ever I’m going to be on TV!” she had enthused earlier when she alerted performing arts faculty at Harker that she was slated to be on the second episode of the show. “Don’t blink, and you might just catch yours truly as ‘Quinn,’ Mia’s (annoying) classmate.”
Wong is the co-founder of a groundbreaking theater company in New York called The Accidental Shakespeare Company, which mixes theater with improvisation, with casting decisions made by the audience moments before curtain and random props thrown into the mix. The theater company is dedicated to the idea of play.
Harker’s performing arts program played a significant role in Wong’s education. As a kindergartner, she was cast as a fairy princess in “Cinderella.” Every year thereafter Wong performed in Harker’s dance production, and she had the female lead in the upper school’s musical “42nd Street.” After graduation, Wong attended New York University, where she earned a BFA in drama.
She spent this past summer in upstate New York with the Adirondack Shakespeare Company. This spring she will be performing “Margaret” in The Kingship Cycle in New York City with the same company; the cycle presents concurrent productions of Shakespeare’s early history plays, with the cast members playing the same characters in each play in which those characters appear.
Wong reports her own acting company is going strong and experiencing a rapid growth in audiences: “I see how the work ethic, the professionalism and the passion that I learned at Harker set me apart from so many other actors. It is the reason why I can develop and run my company!”
Like Wong, Blickenstaff developed his acting chops at Harker, with major roles in both fall plays and spring musicals, culminating in his portrayal of “Harold Hill” in “The Music Man” in his senior year. Currently a senior at USC, Blickenstaff won rave reviews this past spring for his innovative direction of the musical “Sweeney Todd.”
These days Blickenstaff is thrilled to be a part of a parody musical production of the bestselling novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” which just opened in an off-Broadway theater in New York.
Musical sketch comedy group Baby Wants Candy brought their original production “50 Shades! The Musical” to New York’s Gramercy Theater on Jan. 11-12. The work, which is based on the controversial trilogy by British author E.L. James, drew packed audiences to the Chicago theater where it originally opened and was part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival before its New York premiere. Baby Wants Candy and Harker have enjoyed a relationship since the group supported the Conservatory’s cast of “Pippin” at the Fringe in 2011; the group did a workshop at Harker last February, and Harker performing arts director Laura Lang-Ree helped bring Blickenstaff and the improv troupe together.
Blickenstaff worked behind the scenes in production for the show and also onstage as a dancer. “We did one performance there that somehow filled 788 seats of an 800-seat theater. People loved the show.
It was so much fun, and I went back to L.A. so happy to have been a part of it,” recalled Blickenstaff, who went on to do a run in Chicago at the Apollo Theater and the Skokie Center for the Performing Arts.
“I played the role of Elliot Grey (Christian Grey’s brother) and also was the assistant director. Once again, we filled every seat at the Apollo both nights and got over 500 in Skokie; and the audiences, to our almost disbelief and shock, loved the show,” he recalled.
“I have had the best time of my life. I am so lucky to be a part of this production and I am hoping to keep being in it … yay, Harker Conservatory!”