As a Christian university, Calvin needs to put more focus on its theatre program

I’m a part of a huge extended family of Calvin graduates — 23, to be exact. As the story goes with many folks in longtime Calvin-dominated families, I wasn’t sure I wanted to add to that number.

Seeing Calvin Theatre Company in action changed my mind.

I attended two CTC productions with my high school: 2017’s “The Arabian Nights” and 2019’s “A Wrinkle in Time. Theatre was my passion, and seeing the company’s strong community make high-quality theatre in a college setting was crucial to my college decision. It made me entertain the thought that maybe I did belong at Calvin. When applying to Calvin only a few months later, I decided to follow in the footsteps of two of my high school directors — both CTC alumni — and pursue the theatre minor. 

 I walked into my first CTC class only to be told that the theatre minor had been cut. 

Fast forward two years, and there’s a lot more than just an absent theatre minor and theatre classes that are definite uncertainties in CTC. A new world of performance restrictions that came with the pandemic were messy to handle already — as we readjusted through times that required us to cancel or reschedule shows, including this fall’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” “Midsummer” took a full nine months too long to finally bring to a live audience — our first real, full audience in two years. Behind the scenes, as I’m beginning to see through my involvement on CTC’s student board, more issues are building up. By the year’s end we will lose faculty through Brian Goodman’s retirement, leaving big shoes to fill in our scene shop. We’re already understaffed — with our total of one, adjunct professor, John Scritchfield, new to CTC after a transition in creative directors last fall. Budgeting is fragile, and our future plans may include mostly public domain shows — limiting us in not only outreach to students as educational theatre, but quality projects to keep new members joining and audiences captivated. With outdated and breaking equipment, a singular misstep could be disastrous and immensely costly — throughout our facilities, there are plenty of things in need of repair. 

Despite three shows scheduled for this year’s season, a rare oddity caused by the “Midsummer” setback, we may be more at risk as a company than ever. Watching my program sink while others thrive on increased funding feels like a betrayal. 

As a company, we’re a passionate group who sees what theatre at Calvin can be, and how we can use an immense range of God-given talents to make this a possibility. But this is rendered impossible when we feel abandoned by the university. Most CTC students I’ve talked to feel that Calvin isn’t doing enough to support us, and that it won’t — just because we’re a fine arts program. 

Theatre is essential to a Christian university as praise to God, a gift we can’t allow to be lost. It is something that we as a Christian university should be valuing.”

We’ve seen such a positive reaction to “Midsummer” as a production from the Calvin community. And by working CTC and Newfound Narratives One-Act Festival tables at Cokes and Clubs, I’m aware that there is an existing population of students expressing interest in theatre at Calvin. There is a want for live theatre here, and to fully exhibit our potential, we need financial and structural support to make that happen. Theatre is essential to a Christian university as praise to God, a gift we can’t allow to be lost. It is something that we as a Christian university should be valuing. The act of creating something should be seen through Christian eyes as what we are called to do as created beings of a Creator God. Unless the larger Calvin community recognizes this and takes action to bring life to the vibrant arts culture here, struggling arts programs could be at risk of rapid decay without repair.