Theatre grad earns scholarship for lighting design
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
When Rachel Schumacher started her first semester as a Theatre and Drama student in the College of Fine Arts and Production, she had no idea that her love of acting would evolve into an appreciation for all aspects of theatre.
She especially didn’t expect to finish her senior year accepting a full-ride scholarship to work toward her master of fine arts degree in Lighting Design at the University of Connecticut. But that’s exactly what she did.
Schumacher, who completed her bachelor’s degree at Grand Canyon University in the spring, has been a prominent member of the Theatre Department, performing in plays such “Arms and the Man” (2019), “Macbeth” (2018) and “Two Gentlemen of Verona” (2017).
She also excelled in lighting design, being named a finalist for Realized Lighting Design at the 2019 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival and receiving a nomination for her lighting design work in GCU’s production of “Peter and the Starcatcher” at that year’s AriZoni awards.
It would all be work that helped shape Schumacher into the artist she is today.
“I learned more than I ever thought I would cross departmentally, because you’re being taught every medium of construction,” Schumacher said of her time at GCU. “I got a ton of love and support from everybody, and I’m super excited because this is only going to make me more knowledgeable and better at what I do.”
Schumacher’s UConn scholarship offer was one of eight scholarship offers she received, and it seemed to work in her favor. It was the program she was the most interested in and the best scholarship offer, as well.
It was a scholarship she had earned through the University Resident Theatre Association (URTAS) annual audition and interview event this year in Chicago.
In addition to her full-ride scholarship, Schumacher was offered a position as a graduate assistant.
“It’s pretty perfect,” Schumacher said of the opportunity. “I’m going into it during the perfect time to be in school, which is during a recession. I have a secure job, which is great. I’m going to be moving on my feet for the next three years, not trying to find something to do, which not a lot of people in the industry can say right now because a lot of us work show to show, and our next full year of work has gotten canceled.
“Even at UConn, the fall season has gotten canceled, so we’re just going to have to be able to adjust and adapt, which theatre people know how to do best.”
Schumacher is scheduled to start her program in the fall, but because of the global pandemic, she isn’t quite sure how her next semester of school will look.
It’s just another challenge Schumacher feels prepared to tackle, thanks to her experiences in the theatre field and her time at GCU. She especially appreciated how easy the transition was for ground students to the online classroom environment at the outset of the pandemic.
She doesn’t have any specific plans for her master’s, but she wants whatever career path she takes to utilize her degree.
As for what she would say to her fellow and aspiring theatre graduates in times of strife: Don’t stop working.
“We’re a self-motivating group, so do your work,” she said. “Just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you can’t do the work … if that’s finding your own, great but do something to keep you mentally sharp and learning and creative.
“We’re all trying to work through the new normal together.”
To her professors and mentors at GCU, she said: “I didn’t get to thank you properly at graduation … so THANK YOU. You have prepped me professionally and artistically to be able to achieve this next step in higher education — to mention sending out countless letters of recommendation (you know who you are). I’m very grateful for the constant care and mentorship, and for teaching me to appreciate the integral process of theatre, good and bad. You are all inspiring artists and selfless teachers, and it’s been an absolute pleasure.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]