By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University junior Daniella Brown realized she had a passion for sound design after she took a leap of faith and signed on to be the assistant sound designer for the College of Fine Arts and Production’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” in 2020.
At the time, she always pictured herself onstage; sound design never crossed her mind.
“Once we put it together and put the show up, it was really satisfying to see that finished product of something that I didn’t even know I was interested in,” she said. “Seeing it work so well, I was like, ‘Wow! I’d like to do this forever.’ So I started becoming assistant designer for the next show and the next show.”
That leap of faith would culminate in a summer job as an A2, or production audio technician, with the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts.
The festival, which has built a reputation for attracting Broadway professionals, was introduced to Brown through the faculty and GCU's participation the annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.
As she was moving off campus in April, she received an email from festival organizers asking if she was still interested. She went through the traditional round of interviews, then received another email that seemingly derailed her plans − it announced that the festival was shutting down the internship program.
“That was really disheartening,” she said.
But the story doesn't end there. Several days later, she received another email offering her a paid contract job to work on nine shows celebrating black playwrights and actors of color from mid-June until late July.
“It’s really exciting because I’ve never done any A2 work before, and I know they have this policy and this outlook of educating the people that are there,” she said. “This opportunity, to me, means that it was a really great sign that I’m going in the right direction and that this career is not as out of reach as I once thought it could have been.
“A lot of us know that we’re fighting for a career that’s pretty competitive and pretty hard to get a good footing in. So to have this experience so early into my career is just a huge blessing.”
It’s an accomplishment Brown believes was made possible by the “holistic” design of COFAP’s theatre program.
“A lot of people come into our theatre department not really 100% sure which direction and which field specifically under the umbrella of theatre that they want to go into,” she said. “I think our program’s openness and ability to let us do and try everything has really opened doors for me to discover that I love sound and have at least five opportunities every year to just take a project and run with it, learn more and get more experience.
“It’s a very safe, open place to create and learn, even on your own outside of classes.”
Brown hopes to use her experience in Massachusetts to help her grow beyond what she has learned at GCU — knowledge she can use to help other aspiring sound designers on campus.
“Taking this opportunity and this time to learn in a space that isn’t GCU will give me a lot more information that I can take and apply into my education here that will take me to the next level,” Brown said. “I can learn the bottom-of-the-barrel stuff and bring it back to GCU to be able to expand on it.”
It’s all a matter of patience and perseverance, and that’s what she hopes others will take from her story.
“It does take a lot of time and a lot of energy, but it is worth it, once you push forward to create that resumé, that cover letter, that really solid portfolio or that solid reel,” she said. “It took me all the way from November to March to get my stuff together, to find places and to apply, but it’s much simpler than we think it is. And that fear, although justified, is much more manageable once you put your feet in the water.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].