Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Since 1907
Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin’s theater minor returns

photo courtesy Calvin Theater Company Facebook
Calvin’s Theater Company has a robust offering of shows; the last play, “Rumors,” drew a wide audience.

The theater minor will return to Calvin next fall for the first time since it was cut in the spring of 2020. Students will be able to declare the minor starting this summer.

The minor will entail 22 credit hours, including 12 credits from the “foundational theater classes,” which are comprised of two semesters of the Calvin Theatre Company (CTC) class, an Intro to Performance Studies class, and a new acting class, along with 10 elective credits, CTC Managing Director and Performing Arts Managing Director Kristen Pearson-Eno said. Students who currently participate in the classes already offered will be on their way to completing the minor already, but will be required to take the acting class when it is offered.

Dean of the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences Benita Wolters-Fredlund noted that she believes the “bad news of us cutting our theater minor and losing our theater professor” during the rather sudden downsize in 2020 — prompted by COVID and a large revenue decrease in according to previous Chimes reporting — overshadowed the good news. The university continued supporting both a technical director and a costume designer as staff positions and hired an adjunct professor who took over running the CTC. Wolters-Fredlund said that although the minor was lost, “there was a significant amount of commitment that was maintained this whole time.”

When the program was cut, Toly acknowledged that Calvin no longer had “the programmatic investment in theater that we used to have.” However, he told Chimes that he “had hoped from the beginning to find ways to support that program better. One of those ways to support the program is to rebuild a minor. And so when I heard that we had that possibility, I got right behind that.”

Alongside a desire to invest in the arts, Toly said investments must be made strategically. “What we can’t do is make massive investments in areas that we love, even though we love them. We can’t make massive investments in areas that we love that just aren’t going to deliver more students for us at this point.” At this point, Toly said he thinks the investment in this minor will attract more students to Calvin. 

He told Chimes he hopes to develop a sort of recruitment strategy in which Calvin can “support our theater people out there in the community, [by] showing up for productions, getting to know all the theater teachers and staff members at local schools and saying to seniors and juniors in high school, ‘We’d love to have you at Calvin; we have an opportunity for you to participate in theater.’” 

Pearson-Eno said that current students as well as incoming students have continuously questioned when the minor would return. “The demand has never wavered,” Pearson-Eno told Chimes. The minor was officially announced on the CTC’s Instagram page on January 8.

One such student joining the program is Lindsey Gram, a junior studying strategic communications and writing. Gram has been part of the CTC for multiple seasons now, serving as assistant stage manager for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Curious Savage;”  stagehand for “The Importance of Being Earnest;” as well as playing the part of Cookie in “Rumors.” She will be playing Pearl in the upcoming production of “Ghost Quartet.” 

Gram said it is “very encouraging to know that the university sees us, and they’re supporting us, and they think what we’re doing is cool.” She also noted how the presence of President Boer at multiple shows has shown support for the arts. 

“We really love the arts at Calvin, and I really love the arts at Calvin. We really love theater, and I really love theater,” Toly said. So, as the theater minor is restored, the university is investing in three categories within the department: “people, program, and place,” according to Toly.

Current part-time positions will have increased hours (i.e. full-time equivalent [FTE positions] have a planned increase). Programmatically, Calvin is adding one new course and providing a minor by combining several classes the university already offers.

In regards to place, Wolters-Fredlund said $320,000 went into the Gezon and Lab Theatre to install “a new dimming and control system for both theaters, new lighting fixtures for both theaters, a new rigging system for the lights in Gezon, and new black drapery for the Gezon Stage.” The lights in the Gezon will soon be fully functioning once again. Parts are currently coming in and will be installed once they all arrive. 

Coming up this semester, the CTC will be producing “Ghost Quartet,” a musical (but done in a “much more concert style,” according to Pearson-Eno), and “Little Women,” a play. Based on information from Brent Williams, visual and performing arts director of exhibitions, Toly said that CTC expects 50-75 students to audition for “Little Women,” with only nine to 17 spots available. “That will be the largest group of students to audition for a CTC show in at least four years. . .We have a growing program with robust participation, and we want to support it more and watch it continue to develop,” Toly said.

With all the changes to the CTC, Gram told Chimes, “I just know that our theater company is growing. . . I am very excited both for what’s going to happen in the next year and in the coming years after I graduate.”

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