Alums receive master’s from British theatre school
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
What do Lee Armstrong, best known for his role in “Dunkirk,” and Elizabeth Henstridge of the “Marvel’s Agents of Shield” television show have in common with Grand Canyon University alumni Brenna Warren and Klay Wandelear?
They share the same alma mater — East 15, a theatre school northeast of London that’s an extension of Essex University in England.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in Theatre and Drama from GCU (Warren in 2017, Wandelear in 2016), both attended the University Resident Theatre Association audition for drama schools.
That, in turn, led the pair to East 15, but for different reasons. Warren studied acting while Wandelear decided to take a more directorial path.
“My choices were between Virginia for lighting design, who was going to pay for me to go there, and East 15 and I decided that directing was really what I wanted to do and I really liked the way the program was set up here,” Wandelear said.
Both said their time at GCU’s Ethington Theatre was a crucial step in the transition to East 15.
“I definitely felt like, because the way that Ethington Theatre is run — the way that the faculty run it is that the students are a part of every aspect and that you are not below any part of the theatre — that every part is important and that it’s important to know every part,” Warren said.
“For me, that impacted my time here (East 15) because working with tech teams, understanding the role of the director, understanding the role of the designers, I think someone not coming from a formal training and coming into a master’s or just even drama training in general might push those boundaries a little bit for not knowing where they stand as an actor or as the role they’re in in whatever project.”
The experience also made Wandelear realize how “spoiled” he was at GCU.
“It was both beneficial for me in my course, and it was also a bit difficult to learn a new way of how things worked and my new role in the school,” Wandelear said. “I work as a light designer, so one of the first things I did when coming here is at the end of every course we have a showing of scenes. Every few weeks we show scenes in one of the black box theatres around campus, and I took it upon myself to do the tech and the lights for those because nobody else knew how.”
Wandelear also had to adjust to working around the absence of things he had grown accustomed to at GCU. For example, there was no warehouse or building shop.
Warren and Wandelear also found that their training at GCU helped prepare them for the intensity of their master’s program.
“I think I would have had a really hard time if I hadn’t spent so much time in Ethington Theatre,” Warren said. “How it worked set me up to be a dedicated and respectful actor.”
Now that their master’s courses are complete, both alumni aren’t yet ready to say goodbye to the United Kingdom. Both plan to apply for new visas and look for work in London.
Wandelear said he has spoken to the Royal Shakespeare Company about being an assistant director for a few shows. Warren has worked on developing a business idea for working in drama at schools with younger children. If her idea gets approved, she would receive a sponsored visa to work in London.
But for now, they’ll just have to wait and see.
“It’s just a waiting game at this point, which is a stressful time of life to finish your master’s and then still not know your next step. But that’s the career — you finish one thing and wait for the next,” Warren said.
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].
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