Theatre Department earns 20 ariZoni nominations
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
The 2018-19 Ethington Theatre season was packed full of so many notable productions and performances, it received 20 nominations for the ariZoni Awards, the local version of the Tony Awards.
The winners will be announced at 8 p.m. Monday at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, an event that will include Grand Canyon University’s Theatre Department performing a number from “Peter and the Starcatcher.” Tickets are $23 for adults and $20 for children younger than age 18.
Of the 20 nominations, 13 were for students, five for faculty and two for the overall productions of the two plays. Along with being nominated for Actress in a Major Role, Christina McSheffrey also was named one of three winners of the 2019 Zoni Scholarship.
“I think it just speaks volumes about the education they’re receiving and how we try to work as much as possible to help them be ready to move on to either grad school or into entertainment as a profession,” said Claude Pensis, Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Production (COFAP) and also an ariZoni nominee.
For Trustin Adams, nominated in the Choreography category for “Ring Round the Moon” and in Costume Design for “Peter and the Starcatcher” and a winner last year in Hair and Makeup for “Tartuffe,” being nominated alongside one of his mentors, Costume Designer Nola Yergen, is what made his experience this year special.
“I think I was the most excited just to be nominated beside the person that kind of taught me what I know about costuming,” said Adams, who graduated from GCU in April with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre.
He is pursuing a master’s in Costume Design from the University of Missouri while working at Kansas City Repertory Theatre.
Rachel Schumacher was nominated for Lighting Design alongside Pensis.
“It was a complete shock,” Schumacher said of her nomination. “I was eating dinner and I got 20 notifications from Facebook, which is not normal, and I look down and I was getting text messages like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re nominated.’
“When I looked at the list, Claude — my mentor — was on there for ‘Ring Round the Moon’ and there was Jeff Davis, who I work for (at the Davis Alliance equipment store in Mesa), so it was super special to see my superiors in the same category as me.”
Students being nominated alongside their mentors is something that the theatre department faculty members are proud of, too.
“I think it’s terrific for them to be recognized, but it’s also only right,” COFAP instructor Michael Kary said. “We are training them to do exactly that, to take our places.”
Junior Brandon Brown, nominated for Actor in a Major Role, said being recognized within the theatre community was a great experience.
“I felt really honored to be nominated with so many other great people that I know from all over the Valley, not even just the school, but a lot of my friends. So it was cool to be up there with them and to just be excited with them,” Brown said. “If I win the award, it’s not just me, it really all falls on the shoulders of everybody who made that show what it was.”
The ariZonis have recognized theatre accomplishments in the Valley for 30 years, and GCU has been a participant for nearly that entire time. Assistant Dean William Symington believes the increase in ariZoni nominations could be linked to the program’s continued success in other theatre competitions.
“Our Kennedy Center competition has grown — we’ve done so well that it’s inspired students to go, ‘Oh, being successful in that leads to things like graduate school and jobs,’” Symington said. “From the ariZonis, they can also win scholarships, things like that, and what’s cool about it is that when they go, other people see their work and they can then get hired because every company in the Valley is there.”
Just being nominated for an ariZoni, Symington added, causes employers to say, “Hey, who’s that?” and could lead to a job.
GCU’s ariZoni nominations:
- Best Overall Production: Peter and the Starcatcher
- Best Overall Production: Ring Round the Moon
- Actress in a Major Role: McKenna Kollman – Peter and the Starcatcher
- Actress in a Major Role: Christina McSheffrey – Ring Round the Moon
- Actor in a Major Role: Brandon Brown – Ring Round the Moon
- Actress in a Supporting Role: Megan Sutton – Peter and the Starcatcher
- Actress in a Supporting Role: Megan Sutton – Ring Round the Moon
- Actress in a Supporting Role: Tarnim Bybee – Ring Round the Moon
- Director: Michael Kary – Peter and the Starcatcher
- Musical Direction: Melissa Landes – Peter and the Starcatcher
- Choreography: Trustin Adams – Ring Round the Moon
- Scenic Design: Keeli Rodriguez – Peter and the Starcatcher
- Costume Design: Trustin Adams – Peter and the Starcatcher
- Costume Design: Nola Yergen – Ring Round the Moon
- Hair and Makeup Design: Christen McGrath – Peter and the Starcatcher
- Lighting Design: Rachel Schumacher – Peter and the Starcatcher
- Lighting Design: Claude N. Pensis – Ring Round the Moon
- Property Design: Tu Nguyen – Peter and the Starcatcher
- Property Design: William H. Symington – Ring Round the Moon
- Fight Choreography: Michael Kary – Peter and the Starcatcher
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or email@example.com
GCU Today: ‘Moon’ is matchmaking made in heaven
GCU Today: Slideshow: ‘Ring Round the Moon’
GCU Today: A ‘Starcatcher’ is born at Ethington Theatre
GCU Today: Slideshow: ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’