How GCU Classes Impacted The Phoenix Theater Show

GCU alumni Abbi Cavanaugh (left) and Tarnim Bybee (second from left) were part of the ensemble in “Something Rotten!” at the Phoenix Theatre. (Photo courtesy of Reg Madison Photography/The Phoenix Theater Company)

By Cassandra Coria
GCU News Desk

Recent performances of “Something Rotten!” at the Phoenix Theater presented the work of five Grand Canyon University alumni and one current student.

Ryan Ardelt

But the work of their GCU instructors was also on display.

Michael Kary, our interim coach, really helped me a lot,” said Ryan Ardelt, a 2021 graduate who majored in theater and minored in dance. “One thing he really cares about is audition prep. Honestly, this audition prep help from him has been really helpful in transitioning into the professional world and not being scared of it and not being confused or overwhelmed by the professional environment.

“I felt like I was basically practicing everything I did at GCU.”

When asked what her most important classes were at GCU, 2019 graduate Tarnim Bybee did not hesitate.

Michael Kary directs Brandon Brown during Brown’s time at GCU.

“Playing 1 and 2 with Michael Kary,” Bybee said. “I remember taking Acting 1 my freshman year, and it blew my mind because I was from high school and didn’t know anything technical about acting.”

GCU tap teacher Suzy Guarino Hall also had an impact on the show’s alumni.

“I loved Suzy’s classes in college. The skills she taught in the classroom, like learning the material quickly and laying the groundwork, were absolutely crucial in what we can do now,” Bybee said.

During their time as students, some classes came up with fixed assumptions. And then there were the surprises.

Suzy Guarino-Hall’s tap lessons have also been a big help for alumni.

“Pilates! said Ardelt. “My Pilates class which I had to take in the first semester of my senior year. In fact, it turned out to be one of the most valuable classes I have ever taken. This class has changed my life. I fixed my posture, I learned how to warm up properly, I learned all those things you need in the professional world just from that body class.

“I was like, whatever, I have to take this course, but I absolutely loved it. GCU has all those classes in the dance program that you think, “Oh, whatever,” but learning the basic technique, even though it may feel repetitive, can really help with consistency and longevity in a professional career.

Guarino-Hall said, “The cool thing is that a lot of these kids come in, they were looking to be better and be successful. One of the things is tap dancing. I’m super proud that a handful took tap dancing. It’s pretty cool that the kids have learned enough to go out, tap, and audition for a professional theater like the Phoenix Theater. I’m super excited that these kids got this opportunity to represent GCU and the dance company.

Tarnim Bybee (left) and Micah Larsen were cast in the production of ‘Godspell’ at the Ethington Theater in 2019.

Other GCU alumni overall were Abbi Cavanaugh (2020) and Brandon Brown (2021). Behind the scenes were Micah Larsen (2020), light panel operator and senior Nick Boisvertwho was part of the deck crew.

“The fact that we have four (actors) on their show says a lot,” Kary said.

Said Dr. Craig DetweilerDean of College of Arts and Media“I really enjoyed seeing our graduates shine in this wild show. It is so encouraging to see how our courses and productions have prepared them to become polished professionals.

“Something rotten! is a musical set during Renaissance England in the 1590s. The Bottom brothers, Nick and Nigel, attempt to write a play but are overshadowed by William Shakespeare. Nick, in desperation, goes to a diviner to hasten their success.

With the combination of glitter, bright lights and tap dancing, the musical received a standing ovation before halfway through the show. It was a welcome sight after the pandemic left something rotten in the community.

Nick Boisvert (left) starred in several Ethington Theater productions, but was part of the Phoenix Theater show crew.

“This kind of show is exactly what people need to see after two such tough years,” Cavanaugh said. “People need to sit down, relax and laugh.”

They were able to do this, in part, thanks to the technical skills that were essential for the show. Boisvert explains their importance:

“The most important thing is just to understand that major aspects of the show don’t move unless you do. Sometimes I run between stations, and I think anyone looking to crew deck must understand that she has a level of responsibility that we would not have thought of at the start.

Abbi Cavanaugh

“Theatre is such a unique art form because it’s one of the few art forms that so many people contribute to. There are definitely grueling days in any production, but there will always be a time when you look back and realize that no matter your position, you helped make something truly beautiful.

“Something rotten! was choreographed by Eric Sciotto, which was part of the original Broadway show set. This raised high expectations, but the GCU alumni gladly accepted them.

“It’s what I’ve dreamed of doing all my life – acting and dancing, which is just a dream come true,” Cavanaugh said. “It’s really special. Theater is such a unique thing.

Tarnim Bybee

But it all comes back to what they learned on campus.

“I think the theater program, we go through so many vulnerabilities together,” Bybee said. “Our acting classes, you become vulnerable. You take risks and it’s scary at times, and I think it’s the process we all go through that connects us so deeply. It means a lot to perform professionally.

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