Fine Arts alumni get spooky at local production

By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau

With Halloween around the corner, the Grand Canyon University alumni working at Christian Youth Theater (CYT) decided to do something to celebrate.

College of Fine Arts and Production alumni (from left) Alexandra Biggs, Haley Gadbery, Bertha Ordonez Cortes and Kathlyn Chisholm helped bring CYT's "The Addams Family" production to life.

It’s creepy and slightly kooky.

Mysterious and spooky.

And altogether ooky.

"The Addams Family."

The production, which debuted last weekend, will wrap up its run with daily shows through Sunday.

CYT, the largest national educational youth theatre nonprofit organization in the country, encourages the development of creativity in children of all ages through theater arts training. The Phoenix branch has been a natural fit for multiple alumni from the College of Fine Arts and Production.

“We’ve had quite a few people come through and teach or work on productions, and I think that CYT’s mission aligns really well with GCU," said Alexandra Biggs, a GCU alumna and CYT teacher. "And it’s nice to be working for a company that is kind of a ministry opportunity for alumni as well.”

Biggs, who graduated from GCU in 2016 with her bachelor’s degree in Dance Education, has gotten to pursue her passion for teaching dance through her job but has via her other artistic interests.

CYT students ages 8-18 participate in the main stage production of "The Addams Family."

Since starting with the organization three years ago, she has done choreography for multiple shows and directed a show, and she also has worked on the tech crew -- including for "The Addams Family."

“We get to the theatre, make sure everyone’s mics are on and then once the show starts we’re responsible for making sure that the correct set pieces are on stage,” Biggs said. “The theatre space that we’re on for this show also has a rotating turntable on the stage, so I’m in charge of making sure that that turns at the correct time and stops when it’s supposed to.”

The show takes a step away from the Addams Family the audience probably knows. The story takes place later in the family’s life and highlights the kooky ways the family handles grown-up issues such as the Wednesday character trying to find someone to marry. 

“I think they’re obviously going to relate to the story, just because it’s such a well-known concept,” CYT Managing Director Haley Gadbery said. “... I think it’s really going to resonate with people of all ages just because they can pick a character and identify with them.”

The story will highlight how the family reacts to Wednesday's new boyfriend.

But what Gadbery is most excited about is helping CYT students, ages 8-18, hone their theatrical creativity.

“It’s always really cool for me to see their growth throughout the 10-week rehearsal process, and they just really have a passion for what they get to do in our program and so every time they perform it’s just really exciting to see," she said. "All of the work that we’re doing for our students just really makes such a big impact on them and they have a really great time with it.”

Gadbery graduated from GCU in 2016 with her bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurial Studies and a minor in Dance Education. Her experience in both programs played a crucial role in her development. 

“I would definitely say that the Entrepreneurial Studies program prepared me really well for being able to manage a small business, so I felt like I could handle the job responsibilities almost immediately once I learned how the company works," she said. "And then obviously the Dance Education Department gave me a lot of good skills for my role as a teacher the and a choreographer there as well.”

The production comes just in time for Halloween.

Gadbery wasn’t the only one.

The show’s director, Bertha Ordonez Cortes, graduated from GCU in 2015 with her bachelor’s degree in Theatre Education. She also is a teacher at South Mountain High School and found CYT two years ago while looking for a second job, and she has used her directing experiences at GCU multiple times in her roles.

“I definitely feel it (her degree) prepared me and inspired me to be a director. GCU gave me a lot of opportunities to do that. Just watching (theatre instructor) Michael Kary and Claude (Pensis, the COFAP dean) direct, I’ve learned a lot from them,” Cortes said. “I’m thankful for that opportunity.”

The production also is choreographed by COFAP alumna Kathlyn Chisholm.

Cortes said the production process has gone smoothly and has sparked a positive response from audiences.

“It’s been pretty great. The kids there are really respectful and really talented, so working with them is really cool,” she said. “I think so far we’ve had a really good response, a lot of laughter.”

The response was so positive, Cortes and her students even received a standing ovation from the audience on opening night.

It’s fun, it’s spooky and it’s the perfect show to set the Halloween mood.


What: The Addams Family

When: Friday, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 26 at 2 and 7 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 27 at 2 p.m.

Where: John Paul Theatre: 1202 W. Thomas Road, Theatre Bldg T-104, Phoenix

Tickets: $20 standard ticket price, $15 child ticket price, $15 group ticket price, $15 senior ticket price and $20 at the door.

Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]


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