Story by Ashlee Larrison
Photos by David Kadlubowski
GCU News Bureau
It will be an Ethington Theatre season like never before.
Starting with the theatre itself.
College of Fine Arts and Production staff and students at Grand Canyon University have completed construction of the outdoor theatre that will be used this season in light of COVID-19 restrictions. It was an ambitious undertaking, even for someone as experienced as Technical Director Brad Cozby.
“It’s a mammoth project because we’re constructing an entire outdoor theatre,” Cozby said. “It’s much different than one of our standard builds for a theatrical show because we don’t normally have to build an entire theatre.”
The project, which began construction roughly a month ago, has taken the work and skills from not only Cozby to turn into a reality, but students as well. Student workers and even cast members for the production of “The Comedy of Errors,” which begins Wednesday night, came together to assist in the construction of the stage, located on the lawn in front of the COFAP building.
Recent GCU graduate Micah Larsen and regional theatre professional Patrick MacDonald were contracted to help Cozby, and student workers joined in on the project when they returned to campus several weeks ago.
The 40-foot stage will be surrounded designated seating areas for audience members, allowing families to sit together while also socially distancing from others. The lighting has been described as resembling an outdoor café. There also is a booth for controlling stage lighting and sound, and all plays will be livestreamed for people who prefer to watch from home.
Cozby said he collaborated on the stage design with COFAP Dean Claude Pensis and Assistant Dean William Symington.
“There were a lot of talks among the three of us on how we could make something like this happen,” Cozby said. “I was given a list of objectives for what the stage needed to accommodate, and then I took that and worked through the engineering of it all.”
Symington said the Theatre Department was prepared for the challenge because it comes with the territory.
“I think that artists and particularly performing arts folks are used to being adaptable,” Symington said. “Creative problem-solving is literally what we do every day. When we’re working on a project, it’s never sort of a set situation where we’re like, ‘Oh we’ll just do it the same way as we’ve always done it.’ It never works that way.
“I think we’re uniquely suited for this. It’s been a challenge, but we create a problem-solving way of thinking of how to do something in a different way and how to make a positive out of it.”
For Cozby, the challenge stemmed from the shear size of the project, but he also can point to several fun experiences during the construction process. His favorite: getting to work alongside the students.
“They’ve really thrown themselves into this project whole-heartedly,” he said. “It’s just been an absolute joy to work with them and make all of this happen.”
Cozby said the stage is an example of how much importance is placed on both keeping students safe while also ensuring that they still can partake in the arts.
“It obviously speaks a lot about the trust the University has in our department to do everything safely and also great trust and faith in our students and what they do and how they perform,” he said. “We’re kind of setting up a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our students by doing outdoor theatre. Most universities, at least that I’ve seen, don’t tackle something like that often, so I love that we took that step and that we wanted to do something like this.
“I love that the students still get to perform amid all of the restrictions that we have currently.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].
GCU Today: Fine Arts goes all out to improvise for students
GCU Today: Students bid sad adieu to show that couldn’t go on