From beasts to menageries, GCU theatre to stage something for everyone

Ethington Theatre will ramp up in September with "Ada and the Engine" and will conclude the 2024-25 season with "The Glass Menagerie."

When Grand Canyon University Chair of Theatre Bill Symington thinks of theatre, he pictures a place open to everyone.

Between Ethington Theatre and the more intimate BlackBox Theatre in the College of Arts and Media, and from musicals such as “Beauty and the Beast,” to classic dramas like “The Glass Menagerie,” Symington and his crew are looking forward to a 2024-25 season that will bring a range of experiences to all audiences.

Chair of Theatre Bill Symington (left) said, "We want to make a season that people want to see."

“We want to make a season that people want to see,” Symington said. “You want a mix of classics but also something newer that addresses contemporary issues – maybe a show with singing and dancing – while the next show is stage combat and a serious drama.”

The traditional route is to create a theme that will summarize the acting season into one. But Symington had a different idea this time around.

"It’s hard to create shows that literally are related in some ways," he said. "Instead, we will create an idea related more to what theatre is – storytelling and human experience."

This idea materializes in the opening play.

"Ada and the Engine"
(Sept. 13-15, 20-22), Ethington Theatre

Ethington’s season kicks off with an inspirational story under the direction of Michael Kary that should reflect students' lives on campus as they start a new semester. The plot follows a young girl pursuing her dreams of creativity and innovation.

Ada Lovelace discovers her skills for math and science and dares to dream big when she invents an idea for an engine that will perform the unimaginable: think for itself, talk to itself, calculate solutions and even create music.

“It is an uplifting story about realizing that anyone is capable of anything,” Symington emphasized.

And what says uplifting more than a boy who uses his past as a motivational factor to inspire and help others?

"Tomas and the Library Lady"
(Oct. 18-20, 25-27), Black Box Theatre

In this heartfelt, moving tale, Tomas moves to Iowa with his migrant farm worker parents, where he discovers the power of academic knowledge. Taken in by the school’s library lady, Tomas receives mentorship in school and is enthralled by his newly gained passion for education.

After making her GCU theatre debut by directing “Real Women Have Curves,” Bertha Cortes returns to Ethington to direct this play based on a true story in which a boy sets out to change his future by finishing his higher education and paving the way for other immigrants.

“Other people’s stories enrich our lives too,” Symington said of the big takeaway from this story -- a takeaway that is often a theme in Disney stories, like the winter musical, "Beauty and the Beast."

"Beauty and the Beast"
(Nov. 8-10, 15-17), Ethington Theatre

It is a tale as old as time.

This magical, French fairy tale follows a heartless prince trapped in the body of a beast who must learn the true meaning of love and kindness to restore his life. After holding a young woman named Belle hostage in exchange for her father’s freedom, the Beast must learn to give his genuine love to Belle and earn her love to break his curse.

“The story of, ‘with love, anybody can be who they should be,' is the story we want to tell,” Symington shared.

GCU Costume Manager Cindi Calhoun will direct this Disney musical masterpiece of love and redemption, dazzling the Ethington stage with teacups, clocks, candleholders and rose petals.

"The Diary of Anne Frank"
(Jan. 31-Feb. 2, 7-9), Black Box Theatre

This revolutionary story follows a German girl who went into hiding with her family at the start of World War ll. While living in the secret crevices of an Amsterdam home, Anne Frank documents her life behind the renowned bookshelf.  

Under the direction of Joanie Colson, this play will bring to life Frank’s powerful words and daunting revelations of one of the most horrific and tragic time periods in history.

“It is important to not let a story like that fade into history,” Symington said. “This is something that really happened, and as human beings, it is important to reflect on past tough things and how we got through them.”

"Little Women"
(Feb. 28-Mar.2, 7-9), Ethington Theatre

Louisa May Alcott’s timeless classic explores the unbreakable bond of sisterhood in the Civil War era, when women were constrained from doing a great deal of things. The story follows four resilient sisters as they navigate love, loss and life’s challenges in their transition from childhood to womanhood.

With a moving score by Jason Howland and Mindi Dickstein’s lyrics, Michael Kary will direct the heartfelt musical adaptation, emphasizing the power of courage, creativity and enduring family bonds.

“When we do shows like this, it reminds people that the central human experience never changes,” Symington said.

"The Glass Menagerie"
(Mar. 21-23, 28-30), Black Box Theatre

GCU’s Theatre Director Claude Pensis will close out the theatre season with an older classic focusing on a family struggling with secrets untold, dreams unfulfilled and the difficulty of leaving the past behind.

Tennessee Williams paints a literal and figurative fragile world of personal memory told through fictional characters. The Wingfield family -- Amanda, Tom and Laura -- navigate the challenge of balancing unhealthy life habits and relationship dynamics all while sharing a small housing space.

“Though the story may be on the deeper, psychological side, the play is really about human interactions and how we choose to treat one another,” Symington explained.


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GCU Magazine

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