For 10 ‘Tartuffe’ students, the show goes on
By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
The student designers whose behind-the-scenes magic created Ethington Theatre’s recent production of “Tartuffe,” plus three of the cast members who brought it to life, have been invited to the second round of a prestigious regional competition.
The 10 Grand Canyon University students – the most ever chosen for the contest from GCU’s College of Fine Arts and Production (COFAP) – were selected to compete in February at the 50th annual Regional VIII Festival of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Mesa.
The three actors chosen were Stacy Arleen, who portrayed the clever and beautiful Elmire; Levi Roberts, cast as the evil Tartuffe; and Christine Ward, who brought humor and wisdom to the role of Dorine the maid.
All seven student designers in the production were selected: Trustin Adams, hair and makeup; Emily Ward Burritt, dramaturg; Tarnim Bybee, lighting; James Coblentz, props; Maria Petovic, costumes; Keely Rodriguez, scenery; and Taylor Harrison, stage manager.
The actors will perform scenes and monologues for the judges, and the designers will make detailed and intricate presentations about their production roles.
“They will read the (show’s) purpose statement and concept,” said COFAP Dean Claude Pensis, the director of “Tartuffe.” “The concept must match what the judges see.”
Pensis said the judges are known for myopic examinations of each phase of work and every artistic decision.
“They nitpick,” Pensis said. “They often remind us, ‘You’re going to forget that we once said that we like the show.’”
Each student designer faced daunting tasks with enthusiasm and a determination that propelled them to excellence. They began toiling in earnest in June – four months before the curtain rose in October.
They brought progressively elaborate examples of their projects to preproduction meetings, whether stylized wigs, wardrobe options or a miniature Ethington Theatre stage complete with the asymmetrical, geometric triangles, squares and rectangles that comprised the set floor, doors and windows.
Adams, the hair and makeup designer, thoroughly immersed himself in researching, drawing and experimenting with an array of substances to create the elaborate wigs that were the epitome of style in 18th-century France.
“I’ve decided to use foam,” Adams said at the start of the Tartuffe pre-production sessions. “I’m creating bouffant buns, but longer and with hair extensions.”
It took many hours to make the first prototype, a spectacularly curled and powdered creation that began as pool noodles.
Most of the student designers faced competition from other applicants before Pensis, as director, placed them in their coveted roles.
For each of the last three years, COFAP has picked one of its five annual productions to compete in the Kennedy Center festival, which means the show must be designed by students.
Tartuffe is Ethington Theatre’s largest student-designed show to date, and it was the first Kennedy Center competitor Pensis ever directed.
The 10 COFAP students represent the largest number selected for the festival’s second round, Pensis said. Eight students were chosen from Ethington’s 2016 production of “Our Town” and six from the previous year’s “Scapin.”
“Every year, we change gears, and we move up,” Pensis said.
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.