Marissa’s Story

Marissa King Photo

Marissa Hannah King,  21 of  Orangeville, Michigan died January 16 2012; born  November 20, 1990 Kalamazoo, Michigan

Marissa, a Comstock High School graduate, Class of 2008 was attending  KVCC.  Marissa was involved in many aspects of community theatre, and local films.  During her brief life she touched many lives.  Marissa enjoyed reading, films, music, adventure and was an eloquent writer who loved poetry and short stories.  She was engaged to Chris Kahllo, these two will forever live in our hearts and memories.

Marissa is survived by her mother Nancy King, father Charles King, sister Devon, brother Wade, grandmother Patricia King and her many Aunts, Uncles, cousins, and friends who loved her.

“Take me as I come, ’cause I can’t stay long.” – Tom Petty

Marissa Hannah King was a member of our CST family who left us way too soon.  She was on stage for her first show at CST in 2004, but after that she was always back stage.  Marissa came to love the tech side of theatre.  She eventually excelled as a Stage Manager, even at her young age.  Marissa quickly gained the respect of the staff and cast on each production.  She was very good at problem solving.  If another staff member or actor mentioned a problem or issue on the set, Marissa could be counted on to figure out a solution.  She worked on every CST summer show from 2004 to 2011.  In addition, she crewed for several multi-high school productions and CST youth shows.

Center Stage was Marissa’s first theatre home, but she also worked with the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, Whole Art Theatre, Whole Art New Play Series, and What-a Do Theatre in Battle Creek.  She was a very valued member of the local theatre community.

Marissa died in January of 2012 of an opioid overdose at the age of 21.  Her mother, Nancy King, has become a passionate advocate for those with substance use disorder and addictions.  She founded the COPENetwork (Community Outreach Prevention and Education) here in Kalamazoo to teach people about the nature of drug addiction, emphasize compassion for those who struggle with it, and train people in the use of Narcan to stop an overdose.

Addiction is an illness, and CST believes discussing it openly is vital to reducing stigma and helping the community understand substance use disorder.  There has been an increase in people, especially young people, who are struggling with mental health concerns, stress, and trauma.  There is a definite connection between trauma and substance use disorder.  In 2020, more than 59.3 million people 12 years old or older admitted using illicit drugs in the previous year.  Although opioid prescribing has decreased, this has not stopped the increasing number of deaths due to opioid use.  In 2021, 107,000 people died from an opioid related overdose…3,000 of those deaths happened in Michigan.

Substance misuse and addictions come in many forms and affect people from all walks of life.  Judgment of a person who has used substances to cope with their life’s adversity only harms that person more.  Compassion is the key. 

Marissa’s legacy lives on…in the work of COPE and in her beloved theatre family.  She is with us back stage for every CST production.  New generations of the CST family are learning the lessons of passion, dedication, love, and loss that her story teaches. 

If you, or someone you love, is dealing with substance use disorder, contact for help and understanding.


Marissa’s Mom, Nancy King and her sister Devon King, with the plaque about Marissa that now hangs back stage near the Stage Manager’s desk during all our performances.