Shows went on this summer for theater students

August 08, 2016 / by / 0 Comment

By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau

School may not be in session this summer for College of Fine Arts and Production (COFAP) theater students, but that hasn’t stopped them from acting, directing and producing.

Whether recent graduates or currently enrolled at Grand Canyon University, these thespians have been busy in a variety of roles and venues. And their GCU experiences helped pave the way.

Recent graduate Ryan Usher, seen here in last season's "Scapin," is one of many current and former College of Fine Arts and Production students who were busy this summer.

Recent graduate Ryan Usher, seen here in last season’s “Scapin,” is one of many current and former College of Fine Arts and Production students who were busy this summer.

Sophomore Natalie Shields credits COFAP for skills she readily translated into a career-building summer experience. Shields spent the summer directing Disney’s “Aladdin Jr.,” for kids ages 7-18, at Hold the Applause Productions in Albuquerque, a nonprofit theater company she co-owns with her sister.

She also produced the show, handled the business end and oversaw the costuming, sets and the technical piece.

“Being a theater and a marketing major at GCU is the ultimate preparation for running a theater company,” Shields said. “Even having only a year under my belt, I feel like I have been so blessed by the professors and the classes that I’ve been able to take.

“I also have just moved across the country to work an internship with Walt Disney World for a semester, working in costuming. I have loved every minute at GCU and will hate to spend a semester apart from it, but I know that my opportunities at Disney will be beyond my wildest dreams.”

Graduate Johnni Medina participated in the Caleb Reese Festival of New Plays and Musicals at Phoenix Theatre.

“My job was to present the new plays and musicals and facilitate conversation afterward to help the playwrights learn how their work was received,” Medina said. She was also a writer for the 24 Hour Play Festival, where a short play is written based off of four or five costumed actors and their props and then rehearsed, directed, staged and performed within 24 hours.

“My play (‘Viv La Teacher’s Lounge’) was received really well, and I spent the next few days being introduced as  ‘that one playwright who wrote that great play’ to Phoenix Titans of the theater scene,” she said.

“I found this job through a peer at GCU and received recognition and support from GCU staff. The GCU theater program really teaches us to work hard to make ourselves invaluable to employers, and the continued trust that the wonderful staff of Phoenix Theatre has placed on me really validates that effort.”

Here are some other recent accomplishments of even more COFAP students:

  • Berta Cortes, a graduate, received the Rookie of the Year Award from the Cave Creek Unified School District.
  • Hannah Stewart, a graduate, has a directing internship with the Southwest Shakespeare Company in Mesa and will be assistant directing and more for “Much Ado” in January. She is also in discussions about two other shows.
  • Ryan Usher, a graduate, performed at the Phoenix Theatre New Works Festival and finished shooting a commercial.
  • Miresa Wilson, a graduate, was cast in “Twelfth Night” for Shakespeare in the Park in TheatreCORE in Pittsburg, Calif. She was cast in the ensemble and as Curio, Valentine, both officers and the priest. She is also stage managing “Mr. Roberts” in November and “Hairspray” in May, both with the Pittsburg Community Theatre.
  • Perry S. Whitehair, a senior, stage managed “Noises Off” for the Draper Historic Theater in Utah.
  • Bridgette Lee Phipps, a graduate, performed in “How to Succeed in Business” at Phoenix Theatre’s 24 Hour Project.

    Andrew Weedman, seen here helping build the "Seussical" set at Ethington Theatre last spring, is one of the COFAP students who plied their craft this summer.

    Andrew Weedman, seen here helping build the “Seussical” set at Ethington Theatre last spring, is one of the COFAP students who plied their craft this summer.

  • Brittany Thomas, a graduate, was stage manager for “Music Man” at Queen Creek Performing Arts Center and attended Broadway Teachers Workshop in New York City.
  • Trustin Adams, a sophomore, was cast in “Legally Blonde the Musical.”
  • Andrew Weedman, a junior, was deck crew for Phoenix Theatre’s “When You Wish” and technical director and scenic director for Hold the Applause Productions in Albuquerque. He also has a Disney World internship.
  • Sarah McMillin, a graduate, booked two television acting jobs.
  • Ashley Romantic, a senior, was cast in a television episode of “Women in Prison,” which aired on TLC and Investigation Discovery.
  • Amber Moldrem, a graduate, is a properties apprentice at Phoenix Theatre.
  • Mandy Tompkins, a sophomore, was cast in Mesa Community College’s (MCC) “Big Fish.”
  • Klay Wandalear, a graduate, was lighting designer for Mesa Encore Theatre’s “Sweeney Todd.”
  • Bennett Wood, a sophomore, was cast as Zacky in MCC’s “Big Fish.”
  • Corinne Tachuk, a graduate, was in “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and currently “My Fair Lady” at the Scottsdale Musical Theater Company.
  • Deanna McMahan, a graduate, was stage manager for “Twelfth Night” at the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center in Florida and played Emma Borden in “LIZZIE: The Musical” at the Jobsite Theater in Tampa, Fla.
  • Iesha Sue Washington, a graduate, booked a nurse role in the film, “Stealing Sunrise 2: Malibu Trail,” a He Said She Said Production in San Francisco.
  • Students interning at Disney World include Natalie Shields, Bennett Wood, Andrew Weedman, Trustin Adams, Charlotte Hope Perkis, Sarah McMillin, Jennifer Marcantonio, Jaci Spriggs and Kristina Capra.

Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or 

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