Last theater minor a leader in remains of program


Photo courtesy Newfound Narratives One-Act Festival

Senior Grace Pilarski is the last Calvin student attempting to graduate with a theater minor. The program was cut in 2020.

“The Actor’s Nightmare, a play directed by Calvin’s last remaining theater minor, is scheduled to open next month. It is one of two plays produced by Calvin Theater Company this semester. The director, senior Grace Pilarski, is the last student attempting to complete a theater minor at Calvin; the theater minor was cut in 2020 along with a number of other minors and majors.

The minor was cut due to financial strain. “It had to be cut in order to move forward,” Pilarski said, “[but] I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hurtful.” 

Although the cuts allowed the department to refocus in new areas, some students still see the change as having an ongoing negative impact on the university as a whole. “[Theater] is something people are looking for,” Hannah Sliekers, a current first-year student majoring in English and participating in Calvin Theater Company, said. 

Pilarski saw the interdiciplinary cooperation required in theater as a positive for a liberal arts school.

“It was one of the things I was looking for in a college,” said Sliekers, who said she may have taken a theater minor had the program not been cut. Without a dedicated focus on theater, the program has a different tone, she said. 

The current theater classes have limited availability, and for students “outside of the class [it] is hard to feel a part of [the theater program],” Pilarski said. With limited faculty support, students now feel responsible for maintaining the program by continuing student interest and taking on more tasks related to the operation of CTC and other theater programs and events at Calvin, according to Pilarski.

“Theater is one of the most empathetic art forms.

For Pilarski, one of these tasks is directing, which she said is both “daunting and very exciting.” Assuming such a large role “can be a lot of pressure balancing workloads,” Pilarski said, but she said the work is worth it; she continues to learn from her theater experiences at Calvin. 

“Theater is one of the most empathetic art forms,” Pilarski said; the process of playing a character deepens an actor’s understanding of, and empathy towards, said character. In addition to building her empathy, Pilarski said that her experience in the theater program has helped her develop strong leadership and technical skills. 

Sliekers, who stars in Pilarski’s production of “The Actor’s Nightmare” appreciates having a student director; she said “there is more of an energy of willingness to be adventurous and to try things.” Pilarski is confident in the production, saying that it is “ridiculous but in the best way.”

“The Actor’s Nightmare” opens Nov. 18 at 7:30 p.m.