This graduate’s GCU script played out perfectly
By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
When Jennifer Estrada went to theatrical productions, she was amazed as much by the sets, props and costumes as by the magic of the acting.
“I wondered, ‘How did they do that? How do these things work? What is going on backstage now?’ I wanted to know what went on behind the scenes,” Estrada said.
At Grand Canyon University, she found out.
Estrada, one of the graduates Friday in winter commencement, has worked on 11 Ethington Theatre productions and learned first-hand what goes on backstage. As stage manager of the recent ‘‘Our Town,” she was even in charge of it.
Estrada earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the Colangelo College of Business (CCOB) while gaining practical experience from the College of Fine Arts and Production (COFAP). She is a Colangelo Scholar and a member of the inaugural Honors College class.
“Even though I am in business management, I think of COFAP as a second college and as a family that has taken me in and taught me more than I could ever imagine,” Estrada said.
She is enrolled in the Disney College Program at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and hopes to later parlay her degree and experience into a career in production management, theater business or event planning.
Estrada has been a behind-the-scenes fixture in Ethington Theatre main stage shows from the November 2014 “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” to last month’s Our Town. She also stage-managed “Antigone Now,” which was directed and managed by students.
“Each production has been its own unique and beautiful experience for different reasons,” Estrada said. “I have had the opportunity to work with over 100 different actors and multiple crew members on different stories.”
She is gratified to have met and befriended actors such as GCU graduates Ryan Usher and Joy Flatz and current student Devaune Bohall, whom she previously had seen only from afar.
“I appreciate being able to call them friends and learning from them and being able to see where they go in life,” she said.
Curiosity killed the cat, she said, but it also gave a sense of purpose and a goal to achieve.
“It’s that keen effort of every single person who is working on a show coming together and creating something that makes people think and makes people feel and brings more beauty into the world,” Estrada said.
It also means a lot to her that GCU is a place where fellow Christians can pray together and for one another, the production and the audience, before the curtain rises.
She said God works through her to make the world a better place. “God works through me 100 percent,” Estrada said.
Estrada and four other women who held “Our Town” design positions — Laynie Nelson (set design and costume), Armani Randolph (lighting), Madison Kesterson (hair and makeup) and Emily Ward (dramaturgy, the study of dramatic composition and the representation of the main elements of drama on the stage) — as well as actors Bohall, Cameron Cluff and James Coblentz were invited to the prestigious Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival’s regional competition.
“To have five very talented, very powerful women come together for production for the first time was amazing,” Estrada said. “Working directly with (director) Michael Kary was one of the most wonderful gifts. He is incredible.”
She credits and thanks Kary, COFAP Dean Claude Pensis and Assistant Dean Bill Symington for making it possible for her to be involved in theater.
“Our Town” was a fitting final production for Estrada. It deals with life and loss and has a message she found both powerful and personal.
“The show talks a lot about living life to the fullest and how every minute could be your last,” Estrada said. “I’m a senior graduating … so it was even more sentimental for me.”
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.