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July 7, 2017

Working together, Fanshawe and the Grand Theatre are making magic happen.

Location, location, location! Amid growing momentum supporting cross-sector investment in London's downtown district - Fanshawe College and the Grand Theatre are proving close proximity means enhanced opportunity for collaboration.

Since opening its downtown Centre for Digital and Performing Arts (CDPA) campus in January 2014, Fanshawe's creative theatre arts students and key staff at the Grand are walking a frequent path between their strategic core locations.  

Theatre Programs Coordinator Karen Harley notes hands-on learning is Fanshawe'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.” 

Production Manager Lyndee Hansen (L), recent graduate Lauren Rebelo and Theatre Programs Coordinator Karen Harley gather at the Grand

Production Manager Lyndee Hansen (L), recent graduate Lauren Rebelo and Theatre Programs Coordinator Karen Harley gather at the Grand

Grand Theatre Production Manager Lyndee Hansen 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 - provide practical knowledge and insights to help students find employment in the theatre world, while students bring new perspectives on design and technology.”

Observing some weeks she leaves her office several times to visit CDPA 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 situation.

“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,” notes Hansen. “Fanshawe's downtown campus is designed to foster a strong culture of collaboration with our local arts community, and it is doing just that.”

Basking in an historic donation of $1 million by London philanthropists Andy and Helen Spriet, while awaiting the debut season of new artistic director Dennis Garnhum - with a theme of “World Curious, London Proud” - it is an exciting time at the Grand. Sharing in the excitement is newly-minted Fanshawe graduate, Lauren Rebelo, now 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,” gushes Rebelo. “I cannot wait to interface with many new colleagues on the Grand team, and get my hands on such innovative equipment - like a rigging system enabling scenery to fly in and out.”

Hansen points to 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.”

According to Harley, 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.”

Indeed, the students learn by “seeing and doing,” as a Grand Theatre subscription is included in their college tuition. Also, enjoying special talk-back 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 ensuring its students have state-of-the-art facilities, and graduates are able to prosper in an ever-changing global economy, Fanshawe is also expanding its downtown footprint by repurposing the former Kingsmill building right 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.

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For further information about Fanshawe College, please contact Corporate Communications.