Hitting the stage: A new GCU theatre troupe
By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau
Once upon a time, Grand Canyon University students exercised their dramatic talents as part of a now-defunct performance troupe called Canyon Tales. Now, a few years later in GCU’s story, students will have the chance once again to tell a few tales with a new group called Parables, an initiative of the College of Fine Arts and Production (COFAP).
“A long, long, long, long time ago, like in the ’90s, we had something called Canyon Tales, which was a reader’s theatre. It wasn’t theatre majors. It was a lot of education majors, actually,” theatre instructor and director Michael Kary said. “They would go into elementary schools, so it really was not like this thing.”
Parables isn’t reader’s theatre – a style of theatre in which actors don’t memorize lines but read a script and express emotion through their voices rather than through a traditional performance. Also, the focus will be on high school students rather than elementary schools.
Kary is writing the material for the first production, and as with all Parables plays, the story is faith-based.
The 10 students in the group will be divided into two teams, Kary said, to give the actors an opportunity to perform and to spread out the performance load to minimize classroom absences.
Parables will start rehearsing for its first production at the top of the semester, and the hope is for the group to be in schools by the end of October or early November.
“This is something that Claude (COFAP Dean Claude Pensis) thought was an important way for us to reach, especially, the Christian high schools in the Valley,” Kary said. “We get a lot of students (who enroll at GCU) from those high schools, but we don’t get a lot of theatre students from the high schools.”
The theatre department sees Parables as serving two purposes: No. 1, to bring faith-based stories to the high schools and, No. 2, to make sure students know that studying theatre can be more than a hobby.
“It’s actually showing a kid in a Christian high school that, ‘Oh, this theatre thing that I love to do is something viable to actually study and make a part of my life,’” Kary said.
At this early stage, he said he isn’t sure how many plays Parables will perform or at how many schools.
“It just depends, because the schools all have different requests. Some have told us, ‘Bring whatever you’ve got.’ Some are saying, ‘Can you fit within our chapel schedule,’ and that’s a half-hour or 45 minutes long. And some are like, ‘Can you fit within our chapel schedule and do things that coincide with the themes of our chapel?’ Those are going to be individually prepared for each school.”
Kary said the plans is to put together a production on campus and invite Christian school planners and faculty to come see the show before it’s launched into the community. So far, about 20 schools have expressed interest.
Kary seems to be the perfect fit when it comes to helming the faith-based theatre group. In 2016, he self-published “Acting in Faith: A Christian’s Guide.”
Getting the new troupe started isn’t the only project he’s bringing to fruition.
He also is in the midst of directing the department’s first play of the 2018-19 Ethington Theatre season, “Ring Round the Moon” by Christopher Fry, “a comedic trifle of romance and love affairs.” It follows the attempt of the seemingly cold-hearted Hugo to stop his brother, the innocent Frederic, from marrying an heiress whom he knows doesn’t love Frederic. To accomplish his mission, Hugo elicits the help of a ballerina to seduce Frederic, but then the plan goes awry when she falls for the wrong brother.
The Ethington Theatre season also will include Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” recent Broadway hit “Peter and the Starcatcher,” Holocaust drama “Who Will Carry the Word?” and classic ’70s musical “Godspell.”
Then there’s the other big development this fall for the theatre department – the big COFAP move in early August from various locations, including Colter, Ethington and the Media Arts Complex, to the old Colangelo College of Business building.
The move, the launch of the department’s theatre season and the roll-out of Parables? Expect them to all to build on the theatre’s once-upon-a-times.
Contact GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults at [email protected] or call her at 602-639-7901.
GCU Today: Kary’s book explores Christianity in acting