GVSU pair to star in Grand Rapids production

Moriah Gilbert

It’s not every day a student’s dream comes true of starring in a popular production held at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, but for two Grand Valley State University students, the dream became a reality.

GVSU junior Dezarae Begay and freshman Ryan Owen landed roles in the upcoming musical “South Pacific.”

The play circles around an American nurse stationed on a South Pacific island during World War II. The theatre is using this production as an opportunity to recognize the history and continued mission of the American Red Cross.

“This play is a masterwork,” said Bruce Tinker, executive and artistic director. “In the midst of wonderfully romantic and charming comic songs, we come face-to-face with racism.”

The play faces unsettling topics, which could become a challenge to the actors. Reaching out to another theater wasn’t easy for Begay, and she said it was a shock when she got the role of Liat, the Tonkinese Trader’s daughter.

“Civic (Theatre) is so welcoming and is a very caring community,” Begay said. “They made me feel at home right away and are extremely helpful.”

Begay came to GVSU with an undecided major, but two professors encouraged her to join the group ReAct. The group kindled her acting career. Her first show at GVSU was “The Women of Lockerbie” as a fifth chorus member at the last minute.

“The professors here (at GVSU) definitely challenge you to improve and they want the best for you, pushing you to excel,” Begay said. “Magic happens on stage and I just wanted to be a part of that.”

In her role in “South Pacific,” Begay has experienced new things – like dancing.

“It is just a whole new experience, and I’ve tried a lot of things in this show that I have never done before,” Begay said. “I really can’t explain in words what this opportunity has meant to me.”

Owen is also grateful for his role as radio operator Bob McCaffrey, even though rehearsals can be demanding at times.

“I appreciate working with this theater because they have such an advanced technique when working with their actors,” Owen said. “They have an abundance of resources that contribute to the quality of the show.”

Owen has starred in theater productions in high school and local communities for a few years, but that hasn’t stopped him from hitting the stage.

“I had realized that there is so much more to being on stage than just presence,” Owen said. “There is something about the adrenaline rush and the relationship with the audience that enticed me to continue training and get involved at GV.

“They have not only offered advice for how to perfect my skills as a thespian, but also shape my personality as an individual.”

“South Pacific” is showing on Wednesdays through Sundays from Feb. 27 to March 22 at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, located at 30 N Division Ave. in Grand Rapids.

Ticket prices range from $18 to $35. For more information, visit www.grct.org or call (616) 222-6650.