Class of 2013: Transfer Bina Neuwirth Finds a Home in Theatre Program
By Doug Carroll
GCU Today Magazine
They’ll never be able to say that Bina Neuwirth didn’t leave her mark on productions at Ethington Theatre on the Grand Canyon University campus.
She played a vampire slayer in “Dracula,” a bombastic Greek god in “The Frogs” and a daffy homemaker in “You Can’t Take It With You.” In the last of those, she unintentionally made a big dent in the door of the men’s restroom at Ethington while making a point during dress rehearsal.
“That was Bina’s destruction of private property,” she says. “It was hilarious, but I felt bad.”
The door is in much better shape now, and so is Neuwirth as she graduates from GCU with a bachelor’s degree in theatre performance. In the fall of 2010, she arrived as a transfer student from Phoenix College, uncertain of how she would fit in as a Jewish woman on a Christian campus.
“I was a little nervous,” admits Neuwirth, 25, a Phoenix native. “I made assumptions about people, and that was foolish. Everyone here has been lovely.”
She assumed, also, that the theatre program — then being restarted after a lengthy hiatus — would be decent, and it has gone “above and beyond” that. At the time, she figured it at least would be a better option than transferring to Arizona State University.
“I knew that if I went to ASU, I’d never step onstage,” she says. “But I had to switch (from community college) in order to get my four-year degree. At Phoenix College, we were constantly getting cast in productions. I have a certain type I can play, and being cast is a blessing.”
Neuwirth didn’t always feel so comfortable about the stage. She says she was “horribly shy” as a teenager, with stage fright that lasted for years. She can still recall a community-college acting class in which her voice was trembling and her hands were shaking, but she stuck it out.
That queasy feeling is gone now.
“Like anything else, if you do something enough, your fear goes away,” Neuwirth says. “It’s really freeing when that happens.
“You’re so open onstage. It’s you, capturing a human emotion, and it’s like being torn open.”
Through the direction of Dean Claude Pensis and instructor Michael Kary, she says it’s easy for her to see how much she has grown at GCU as a performer. If she can’t find a suitable master’s degree program in theatre, she says she will keep auditioning for roles.
“When we started work on ‘The Cherry Orchard’ this year, I could see myself taking what Claude and Michael had taught me,” Neuwirth says. “I could feel it rushing at me. They’ve trained me so well. They’re very thorough, and they’re amazing at what they do.”
Kary says Neuwirth’s willingness to “stretch her abilities” made all the difference in her development.
“A constant is her intelligent sense of humor,” he says, “and she brought it to every role and crew position she held. She has a bright future in the entertainment industry.”
Don’t ask her to choose a favorite role from those she played in three theatre seasons. She loves them all, she says, and she will miss the Ethington troupe.
“It was always fun,” Neuwirth says, “a free, wonderful, hilarious, open, inviting environment to be in. It’s as if there were no boundaries. I walked into this artist’s haven, and at first I couldn’t appreciate it.”
Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.