Drama can be a powerful medium for spiritual discipleship as well as a teacher for life lessons. When the Communication Arts major and respective focus tracks began in 2014, collegiate productions immediately became opportunities to provide students with hands-on experiences that complemented their classes.
Maranatha’s Chair of the Department of Humanities, Jeff Miller, has strategically worked to ensure that undergraduate students are given top priority for most roles in collegiate plays. The desire to develop leadership and to disciple students results in in-house casting, as well as students participating in behind-the-scene work on makeup, stage crew, props, lighting, and sound.
In Maranatha’s recent production of Much Ado About Nothing, only five adults were involved in the production, overseeing the play direction, costume, makeup, and stage crew. The remaining 36 members of the cast and crew were undergraduate students, and one-third of those students were Communication Arts majors or Dramatic Production minors. “I was able to apply what I have learned in my Fundamentals of Oral Interpretation and Advanced Oral Interpretation classes to help make my character more believable and give me stage presence,” says actress Kylee Zempel. “I could see principles I learned in Media Studies come into play as we attempted to tell a story believably and take care not to glorify evil or sensitive content.” Zempel is a senior from Waupaca, WI, and played “Beatrice” in Much Ado About Nothing (MAAN). She chose the speech focus within her Com Arts major for the purpose of going into the broadcasting field after graduation.
Miller often chooses students to accompany him in assistant directing the collegiate productions as well, giving them further experience from a different side of the stage. “Last spring I was sitting in Mr. Miller’s office working through my class schedule for the fall,” remembers Kristina Curtis (junior, Communications Arts major), Assistant Director for Much Ado. “We began discussing the fall play and how much we were looking forward to it. Mr. Miller suddenly asked if I would consider being his assistant director. I was completely shocked by his offer but also incredibly honored.” Curtis performed in the spring ’17 production of Twelve Angry Men/Twelve Angry Women, but notes her extended learning from being a director: “My core communications classes came into play as well. These classes prepared me for how to clearly and concisely communicate to the actors what they should do. As a director, strong communication skills are vital. It keeps you from wasting your and the actors’ time and aids in having an excellent final product.”
In addition to teaching technical theater and acting skills, drama teaches life lessons. JD Hadley of Owwoso, MI, has performed in four plays at Maranatha, including playing the character of Claudio in Much Ado. “Since I’m a business management major, time-management is an essential lesson to learn,” says Hadley. “I am also a dramatic productions concentration, and I learned lessons by watching the directors. The way they handled different scenarios taught me lessons about grace under pressure, dealing with the struggles of directing, and teaching new actors the art.”
Zempel personally shares how drama impacts her spiritually. “Sometimes we Christians throw around the idea of ‘giving the glory to God’ or doing everything we do ‘to the glory of God.’ But on a practical level, what does that really mean? How do we glorify God in a heart-wrenching emotional scene? One way I learned practically from Much Ado was in demonstrating what it means to be a human, to feel emotion, to be made in God’s image, and to tell stories authentically. That means, when I am in a scene in which my character is heartbroken, angry, and upset, I discipline myself to put all my effort into it to make it believable so the audience can walk away with a sense of ‘That was believable.’ Because I think when we demonstrate what it really means to be human and to feel grief and heartache and joy, we bring glory to the God who created those things.”
Kylee Zempel: Communication Arts-Speech
Evan Rassmussen: Dramatic Productions minor (also on makeup)
Alyssa Hathcock: DP minor
Phoebe Alexander: DP minor
Jonathan Hadley: DP concentration (also on makeup)
Aaron Mayes: Communication Arts-Speech (also on stage crew)
Abigail Banks: Communication Arts-Speech, DP minor
Hannah Tesreau: Communication Arts-Dramatic Productions (also props master)
Lily May: DP minor
Clayton Steuerwald: Communication Arts-Digital Media
·Kristina Curtis (AD): Communication Arts-DP (also on makeup)
·Jill Jacobson (makeup): Communication Arts-Technical Theatre
·Amelia Johnson (sound): Communication Arts-Speech
·Courtney Hockema (makeup): Communication Arts