A mild case of stage fright helped Tanner Clark find his place in the theater.

Off stage, often positioned in the back of the theater, he carefully watches the action unfold and waits for just the right moment to transform the scene from daylight to dark or to provide dramatic effect with a single spotlight. He’s learned to operate the light board through trial and error, he said, often trying different techniques during rehearsal until he achieves the look he wants. When everything goes smoothly, the audience remains focused on the stage.

“My job is to help the director fulfill his vision,” he said. “I have the freedom to try different lights at different times and make suggestions while we’re rehearsing, but the director has the final say in how the production comes together.”

Tanner joined chorus in middle school, then became involved in the theater program while a student at John Battle High School. He tried acting, but didn’t feel comfortable on stage. So when the teacher asked for behind-the-scenes technical help, he quickly volunteered. He volunteered for the job at VHCC, too, using it as an opportunity to meet new friends and be involved in campus life.

He is responsible for both lighting and sound control during the fall production of Spoon River Anthology and estimates he already has invested about 30 hours preparing for the production. He also trained Priscilla Widener, Brittany Cox, and Andrew Price to assist him so he can squeeze in a disc golf tournament – an event he is spearheading – between shows.

Tanner discovered disc golf by happenstance last spring while hanging out at Wolf Grounds Coffee Shop. A photographer was on campus shooting images for a marketing project and asked Tanner to accompany him to the course for a few quick shots.

“My friend Brandon was with me and we both got very frustrated that we couldn’t get the disc in the basket,” he said. “We went back that day and kept trying and trying. We’ve been playing ever since.”

Tanner said he plays almost daily and, in an attempt to introduce others to the game, helped create a campus disc golf club. The club organized a tournament for both veteran and novice players and will use proceeds from the tournament to maintain the campus disc course, which is free and open to the public. He’ll hurry from the tournament to the Keyser-Aday Theatre for Saturday’s production, excited to spend the day enjoying his two favorite campus pastimes.

When not adjusting lights in the theater or playing disc golf, Tanner is working toward a degree in Business Administration. He also has a work-study assignment in the IT Department and recently was elected to the SGA senate. The busy schedule keeps him on campus most days, he said, but also has afforded him the opportunity to make the most of college life.

“I have a bad habit of overbooking myself, but it’s really a good way to meet people,” he said. “I haven’t quite figured out exactly what I want to do yet, but I’m enjoying my time here.”