“You know, I can’t think of one bad memory there, it’s all a very positive. I was there from almost the very beginning… and I certainly knew of it from the beginning. Seeing where Harry started and where it is, it’s just amazing. It’s definitely something that’s a fond memory.”
-KYW Reporter John McDevitt on Summer Stage
It is very likely our readers have heard the voice of KYW reporter John McDevitt while listening to news updates on the radio. John has been with the station since 1999. Recently John reported on the “T’s Kids” program, a scholarship program in memory of Summer Stage choreographer Terrance Calvert.
We took a few minutes to catch up with John, a Summer Stage alum, who told us he utilizes the skills he learned during summers at UDPAC just about every day in his work as a general assignment reporter.
John participated in Summer Stage in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s “just a few years after it started,” said John. “Everyone I knew was in [Summer Stage] or wanted to be in it. I knew the Dietzlers, I went to school with them, Suzie and Greg. I met some very great people while I was in it.”
John’s breakout role was Sheer Kahn, the tiger in “Jungle Book.” That led to a small part in the Mainstage production of “Oliver.” John reminisced, “The kid fights Oliver in one little scene. It was a small part, but it was fun.” He moved on to play Dopey in “Snow White.” “I was in so many different things and took so many different classes. Even though I was not that good at dancing I remember taking the classes because everybody else did and it was just a good time” [laughs].
John grew up in Drexel Hill and graduated from Monsignor Bonner High School. He continued his education at Temple University, where he got a BA degree in radio, television, and film.
After graduating from Temple John followed his dreams and moved to Hollywood to pursue a career in acting, and while there he ended up working at KYW’s sister station (KFWB) as an editorial assistant. When he was out on the west coast he remembers someone telling him he had to choose between acting and reporting. John didn’t think he had to choose because both require similar skill-sets.
John said he got a lot out of Summer Stage. “I certainly took something away from it…it’s not all about the singing and dancing. You learn discipline and problem-solving, fostering friendships, and you grow self confidence.”
John learned a lot about self-confidence while at Summer Stage and in his everyday life as a reporter he utilizes many of the skills he learned here. “By nature I’m a very shy person and in fact, I refer to myself as a paid extrovert,” John confessed. As a general assignment reporter, he has to be ready for anything, at a moment’s notice. One of the most valuable skills he learned at Summer Stage was how to be adaptable. “I’ve covered everything from pumpkin picking to murders. I need to adapt to situations. I have to conduct myself in a manner that is sensitive to the situation at hand in order to cover the story in an effective way.”
At Summer Stage John developed the discipline and self-confidence to get up in front of an audience to convey a message and he remembers there were times when he was melting inside, he was so uncomfortable. But he learned not to show it. In his daily routine as a reporter “I have to be ‘on.’ It’s almost like a salesman. You have to be right up front when approaching people and when asking questions. You have to do a quick sales pitch in a way to get them interested in talking with you. And not everyone says ‘yes.’ You have to kind of sell it, showcase it, believe in it, and convey it. And that’s what performance is.”
Finally, John credits his days at Summer Stage for learning to think outside of the box, to recognize there is more than just one way to look at things. It was a time when he was able to become a free-thinker, when he was taught specific skills, but was given the freedom to formulate concepts and develop ideas to make them his own. “It was a wonderful time… when you’re introduced to the freedom of ideas and creativity that you’re not necessarily used to being exposed to. It’s refreshing!”
While wrapping up John was asked if it was fun to think back on his time at Summer Stage, “Yea, it really was,” said John. “You know, I can’t think of one bad memory there, it’s all a very positive. I was there from almost the very beginning… and I certainly knew of it from the beginning. Seeing where Harry started and where it is, it’s just amazing. It’s definitely something that’s a fond memory.”