Growing up in Iowa, Kevvin Taylor had big dreams. But where to begin when you’re not exactly surrounded by equally big opportunities?
“My interest in the theatre/arts developed at an early age,” Taylor says. “I was dancing and acting in elementary school plays. Opportunities to expound on this interest via exposure to the theatre were limited growing up, given my impoverished surroundings in Des Moines, IA.”
A family friend and fellow Iowan, Morris Johnson, former vice president of student affairs and dean of student development at Phoenix College, would be just the catalyst Taylor needed. While he was at Phoenix College, with the plan to transfer to Arizona State University, Taylor studied general business courses and majored in general studies.
“PC helped me get to where I'm now by providing a toolbox of general academic studies, thus giving me the confidence to further pursue my secondary education. Coming from a very loving family in the Midwest, I wanted to go far, but be close to home. PC provided a place where I could learn in a home-like environment,” Taylor remembers.
Dr. Larry Soller, speech and theatre professor at PC, opened the world of theater to Taylor as a means of communication. In fact, at one point, both Dr. Soller and Taylor were represented by the same talent agency. “After my time at PC, Dr. Camilla Westenberg (Professor Emeritus and NAACP/BSU advisor), kept me connected to PC as an active alumnus and inspired me to serve my community better. I'm forever grateful to Dr. Westenberg and PC NAACP/BSU for awarding me the Living Legend Award and placing my name among other PC honorees on the tree of life in the Fannin Library.”
Taylor loves the attention and encouragement he received at PC from the faculty. Majoring in arts management at ASU and attaining his first job in arts administration, was the launchpad for his dreams.
“I was able to visualize how my passion for theatre could translate into a successful profession,” says Taylor. “Today, I continue leveraging the training I received at PC and ASU, by developing/coordinating a performing arts program and theatrical production company that produces award-winning plays. I seek to establish a career in commercial theatre because I love this industry and want to leverage my undergraduate degree further, he says.
Over the years, Taylor gained experience in several commercial theatres/live show production companies including ASU Gammage, Florida Studio Theatre, Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts and Feld Entertainment. “But as a result of relocations, I never had the opportunity to realize my potential fully,” he remembers. “Then, with the economic recession in 2007, I had to pivot away from commercial theatre (given limited career opportunities at the time) and into event marketing. The event footprint became my “stage,” and in some sense, I honed my skillset in key areas that apply to theatre management such as event logistics and coordination, event planning & marketing, run-of-show, managing staff of brand ambassadors and excellent communications. But I still ensured direct involvement in the theatre through the development, production and management of my play.”
Today Kevvin Taylor is the Founder and Managing Director of Seek First Entertainment, a faith-friendly family entertainment company based in Phoenix. It specializes in theatrical productions as well as presentation and production services. “I direct and develop award-winning plays about African American subjects. Serving in the role of an independent producer, I oversee all aspects of mounting a theatre production; responsible for the overall financial and managerial functions of a production, raises or provides financial backing, and hires personnel for creative positions (writer, director, designers, composer, choreographer, performers).”
For more than 10 years now, Seek First has enlightened and inspired audiences across the nation with uplifting entertainment, with several nationally acclaimed works at The Tampa Bay Theatre Festival; Atlanta Black Theatre Festival, Atlanta, GA (Winner, "Best Play" 2018); the Women's Theatre Festival of Memphis, Memphis, TN; the Fifth Episcopal District A.M.E. Church AcadAME Awards, Los Angeles, CA and St. Louis, MO; the George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center in Phoenix; Phoenix Center for the Arts Third Street Theatre; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott; ASU Kerr Cultural Center in Scottsdale; Pima Community College in Tucson; the Historic Tanner Chapel A.M.E. Church in Phoenix; and at several Colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District.
“Serving in the role of Sales Manager for presentation and production services, I'm responsible for effectively guiding customers through event experiences (staging, lighting, audiovisual), identifying solutions that meet their goals and objectives, resulting in a compelling event experience,” says Taylor. “That role uses all of my available training and tools I have to ensure maximum event and revenue.”
Clearly, his education and training have launched Taylor into a whirlwind of successes. His list of awards and credentials is impressive. In his company’s first season, he was responsible for all aspects of mounting BLACK WOMEN WALKING, an award-winning play that brings to life stories of courageous black heroines who changed the course of American history. The production reaches more than 1,200 adults and children each year during Black History & Women’s History Month through public performances and educational outreach programs. The theatrical production tours across the country presenting at theatre festivals and performing art centers too.
Taylor was also the Production Stage Manager for the 7th Annual Arizona Black Film Festival Awards Ceremony and the 6th Annual AcadAME Awards, a production of the 5th Episcopal District Church. Both productions allowed him to work with national recording artists and Hollywood actors.
“Now more than ever, I feel a strong desire to reconnect with my passion for theatre and fully establish a career in this field,” Taylor says “The Broadway League (the national trade association for the Broadway industry) served as a bridge – with its history and reputation as a recognized leader in “connecting young theatre professionals with working professionals in the Broadway industry to give them hands-on experience working on a Broadway or Touring Broadway production.” I'm a recent Broadway League Fellow at ASU Gammage and have begun exploring career opportunities in theatre/entertainment administration in the New York area. A dream to work at the highest level of theatre!”
Interested in our other two entrepreneurship stories about PC Alumni? Check them out on YouTube! Each has their own unique story that can be both viewed and read. Below are the links to their YouTube story and story highlight here on our website.
To see Jack Brickhouse on YouTube visit: https://youtu.be/JqCnrEJZjxg. To read his story visit: https://www.phoenixcollege.edu/news/2020/music-magic-meet-jack-brickhouse
To see Breazy Schoonover on YouTube visit: https://youtu.be/rxxMfWvtJfQ. To read her story visit: https://www.phoenixcollege.edu/news/2020/fashion-forward-cutting-edge-me...