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Fanshawe Collegeís Grand collaboration
Writer:Maureen Spencer Golovchenko

Grand Theatre production manager Lyndee Hansen, with Fanshawe College’s Lauren Rebelo and Karen Harley Both students and the downtown theatre are benefiting from a close, ongoing relationship.

Location, location, location! Fanshawe College and the Grand Theatre are proving their close proximity means enhanced opportunities for collaboration. Since opening its Centre for Digital and Performing Arts (CDPA) campus in downtown London in January 2014, Fanshawe’s creative theatre arts students and key staff at the Grand are walking a frequent path between their locations. Karen Harley, Fanshawe’s theatre programs co-ordinator, says hands-on learning is the college’s hallmark, and being just around the corner from the Grand makes continual interaction possible. “Our relationship is growing tentacles because of this close proximity,” says Harley. “It’s truly amazing and allows us to share in the magic of theatre every week, since arranging mass transportation from main campus to downtown is no longer a factor.” Lyndee Hansen, Grand Theatre production manager, agrees. “Liaising with Fanshawe students and staff is a great opportunity for all involved, as it is a learning exchange. Our Grand team, including members who are also college instructors, provides practical knowledge and insights to help students find employment in the theatre world, while students bring new perspectives on design and technology.” Some weeks, Hansen visits CDPA several times to conduct mock interviews, while the students regularly come to the Grand to stand in for actors as the technical team finalizes lighting for each scene of a new show. Hansen calls it a win-win opportunity. “This wonderful give and take is made possible by the short, five-minute walk between us, and it serves both the college and the theatre well,” she adds. “Fanshawe’s downtown campus is designed to foster a strong culture of collaboration with our local arts community, and it is doing just that.” It’s an exciting time at the Grand, which is basking in an historic donation of $1 million by London philanthropists Andy and Helen Spriet. At the same time it’s awaiting the debut season of new artistic director Dennis Garnhum with a theme of “World Curious, London Proud.” Sharing in the excitement is Fanshawe graduate Lauren Rebelo, hired as an apprentice technical director for the upcoming season. “This is my dream job, being part of a professional theatre and sharing in the ebb and flow of a brand new season. I am so grateful for this opportunity,” she says. “I cannot wait to interface with many new colleagues on the Grand team, and get my hands on innovative equipment like a rigging system enabling scenery to fly in and out.” Hansen describes Rebelo’s energy and enthusiasm in bringing theatre to life as contagious. “Sometimes, working in theatre every day, we can become complacent until an eager newcomer, like Lauren, revives our passion and reminds us we really are making magic . . . every day.” Harley says watching her talented students thrive in their new environment is the best part of her job. “It’s so gratifying to witness information, knowledge and love of theatre transfer from the Grand team to our aspiring youth, who share their passions for acting, set design, stage management and wardrobe.” The students learn by “seeing and doing,” as a Grand Theatre subscription is included in their college tuition. Also, enjoying special talkback sessions with cast and crew, doing behind-the-scene tours, and paying visits to offsite carpentry and scenic art workshops provide a full circle of learning. With a goal of ensuring that students have state-of-the-art facilities, and that graduates are able to prosper in an everchanging global economy, Fanshawe is also expanding its downtown footprint by repurposing the former Kingsmill’s building across the street from CDPA. So, when the college’s tourism, hospitality and information technology programs arrive in September 2018, London will welcome 2,000 creative students to its core, all contributing to downtown revitalization.