Building Community through the Magic of Theater at Grays Harbor College by Juliana Wallace Coastal Currents magazine

Posted on: May, 13, 2019

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By Juliana Wallace 
Grays Harbor Coastal Currents magazine (
June 4, 2019

“Theater has the power to teach, to heal, to connect us to ourselves and our community,” explains Dr. Andrew Gaines, Ph.D. “It’s both my joy and my passion.” That passion has taken Gaines to stages and lecture halls around the world as an actor, director, educator and healer. In the fall of 2018, it brought him to Grays Harbor College to head the Department of Theater, Arts and Communication.

With a rich background in community engagement, Gaines has thought a great deal about the significant role theater plays in Grays Harbor. “To me, one of the things that is so amazing about theater is to watch people work together to summon their creative powers and build a reality,” he says. “It’s magic! And we could all use a little more magic in our lives.”

The community participated in that magic this spring when Gaines directed the Grays Harbor College production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Blending Steven Sondheim’s music with a hilarious, gender-bending cast of sparkling local talent, the production hit its mark, delighting audiences.

Gaines has been thrilled to see the enthusiasm Grays Harbor holds for theater. Theater can change lives, he believes. Through the power of stories, both the performers and the audience exercise their imaginations to safely explore the range of human experience. “They create something bigger than themselves,” he explains. “That can be inspiring and rejuvenating, even cathartic.”

The community will again have the opportunity to join in the fun with the Grays Harbor College 2019-2020 theater offerings. The season will include a fall production of the comedy You Can’t Take it with You, followed by the musical Oliver in the winter. Auditions for both plays will be open to the public.

In the long term, Gaines hopes to help develop more community outreach, exploring how the arts can move beyond entertainment to offer unique benefits in a way that other services cannot. He envisions a service-oriented course in which students learn to use theater to work with under-served populations, whether building inter-generational connections in senior centers or working with disadvantaged youth.

One thing is certain. Whether in the classroom or on the stage, Dr. Gaines will continue to inspire actors, change lives and help all of us summon the magic that we need to find hope in a world that seems to find hope in short supply. Coastal Currents