By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
It was the middle of his sophomore year at Grand Canyon University when Dalton Smith found himself standing outside his counselor’s office.
Three semesters of trying to jam the proverbial puzzle piece of his major into his realm of interests had led him to the realization that he had to make a change.
“I packed up my stuff and I called my mom and said, ‘This just isn’t it. I’m not happy doing it. I need to do something that’s better for me,’” he recalled.
Smith had decided to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering when he came to GCU because of his hands-on approach to problem-solving and his mechanical mind. But his choice also stemmed from a desire to fulfill his father’s stipulation of having the degree lead to a “practical job.”
As time went on, however, Smith's love of the arts moved to the forefront of his mind.
“I started getting into theatre my senior year of high school, so when I got to school, I was like, ‘I really want to do acting,’” he said. “I chose Theatre Arts because it’s what I wanted to do, and it was like, ‘If I’m going to go for this acting thing, I might as well put all my cards on the table. I might as well shoot straight for it.’
“I always get the same reaction when I tell people. They’re like, ‘Oh, mechanical engineering to acting, that’s a big jump, isn’t it?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, but if it’s better for you and it’s what you want to do, then why not go for it?’”
Now, the second-year Theatre Arts and Drama student can be found in the College of Fine Arts and Production’s scene shop, where he has found the perfect pairing of theatre and handiwork.
“One thing I love about this school and their program is the fact that they not only teach you acting, but they teach you everything that’s in theatre. So when you get out you have experience in everything and you can kind of get an idea of what you really want to do,” Smith said. “It’s been good to be able to get that balance. I’m getting the acting experience while I’m getting the satisfaction of building.”
In addition to his work on productions behind the scenes, Smith will also make his onstage Ethington Theatre debut as Sergeant Michael Kelly in the department’s production of “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940,” scheduled for Sept. 3-5 and 10-12.
Since changing majors, Smith appears to be happier than ever, but that didn’t make the task of breaking the news to his father any less intimidating.
“I remember not telling my dad for like a week because I was just kind of building it up,” he said. “It was hard, not because I was afraid to tell him. I was afraid to kind of to be a disappointment.
“I didn’t want to make him think that I was stepping down because I couldn’t do it or I couldn’t hold up, I wanted him to know the reason I was stepping down was for me.”
When he finally decided to tell his father, it took a bit of a discussion, but the results pleasantly surprised Smith.
“He was eventually right there for me, and he’s been so excited to hear what I’m doing. He’s excited that there’s a practical thing that I can do with it,” Smith said. “He’s like, ‘I’m glad that you’re doing something that you’re good at and that you’re happy with. That’s my main concern.’”
Now, with his first performance on the horizon, the support from both of his parents has transcended words. Both parents plan to travel to campus from their hometown in Northern California to cheer for their son on opening night.
“It feels good to get that from my parents and know that they have my back and that they’re happy as long as I’m happy,” he said.
Once he completes his program, Smith hopes to have garnered enough experience in performing to pursue a career as a voice actor while also bringing his own stories to life via film. Until then, he hopes to pick up smaller jobs in theatre and film.
If there’s one thing to take away from his story, Smith said, it’s understanding that if you don’t quite fit in one place, it just means you’ll fit in somewhere else.
“You just have to brace yourself up and be open to the waves and where they’re going to push you,” he said. “Allow it to happen and allow yourself to be happy in the moments because you should be.
“Be proud of the things that you do, give yourself some credit and you’ll find yourself in the place you love.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].