Story and photo by Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
It sometimes can come as a shock that our educators lead lives outside the walls of the classroom. But in the College of Fine Arts and Production at Grand Canyon University, those outside lives not only exist but can be exciting and rewarding.
Here's one recent example: William Symington, Assistant Dean of COFAP, was a judge for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) in Los Angeles earlier this month. The KCACTF is a national theater program focused on the improvement of collegiate theater. Symington was accompanied by students who were set to compete against other students in their region.
This wasn’t Symington’s first time engaging with the Kennedy Center -- he also judges for the Kennedy Center in the Valley as well. He is brought to other schools to not only judge but do what they call “responses or talk-backs with students” to educate and “help them get better at what they do.”
Symington normally judges in scenic design (his design specialty) but also has judged theoretical design.
Judging for the Kennedy Center isn’t where his work outside of the University ends, however: Symington also designed a small studio theater comedy for TheaterWorks! last semester titled, “Red Velvet Cake Wars.”
“That’s part of a partnership we’re working on with TheaterWorks! and other companies in town so that our students have really direct access to internships and work opportunities.” he said.
Other local companies in partnership with Symington are Child’s Play Incorporated, Mesa Art Center and Tempe Center of the Arts, just to name a few. Symington said he currently has several students working for those companies.
As if that weren’t enough, Symington is also a member of the AriZoni Board of Directors. The board established a new program called “Backstage Pass,” where students are given the opportunity to meet both local and non-local theater professionals.
“Students and other theater people get to come in and meet theater professionals from all over the Valley and sometimes outside of the Valley and learn about how to get into the business and learn about the things that people in the business are looking for in terms of employment and skills,” Symington said.
The relationship-building Symington and his fellow theater staff have done has not been without payoff -- more and more Lopes are getting theater jobs suitable for a college theater student. Symington said that these companies have recognized the “core values” that the University has instilled in students, and those values have made GCU students a hot commodity in the theater community.
“I get calls, ‘Hey, do you have anyone right now who could be a stage technician or on crew?’, because they want our people,” Symington said. “We’re trying to build that reputation so that we’re the go-to for anyone working in the entertainment industry in Phoenix.
“All of the theater staff members here are continuing working professionals, and part of that is one -- keeping up your chops. But the other part is helping make connections for our students.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]