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Arena Theatre's Caucasian Chalk Circle

Posted November 13, 2015 by Max Pointner '18

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“The war is over! Beware the Peace!” declares a character in Brecht’s “The Caucasian Chalk Circle.” Arena Theater’s production of Brecht’s play emphasizes the playwright’s quest for peace and justice in the face of war.

Brecht is known for his usually heavy plays, and he was a pioneer of modern theater, advocating for art which encouraged social change and action. He does not try to entertain, but to provoke thought. He weaves humor over his weighty topics, yet is not afraid to momentarily show the audience the darkness he dances around.

“The Caucasian Chalk Circle,” perfectly captures the ambiguity of a war zone: the audience is faced with both the menace and grandeur of battle, the invasion and desperate plight of the insignificant. Even the resolution of the play is overshadowed by unanswered questions: does war further justice? Does justice further peace?  As an actor, these ambiguities are a space for work.

“The Caucasian Chalk Circle” calls for over 70 characters and Arena Theater’s current production is populated by only 18 actors. We are all playing many roles, attacking problems from several points of view. Many of these characters are terrible people: selfish, deceitful, filthy. It is the actor’s job to humanize them, and I find myself asking, “How is this person better than I?”

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I am forced to be patient, generous, and even merciful with these characters as I simultaneously use them to tell a story while also authentically advocating for them in their own risky worlds. Perhaps it is this mercy which can further peace in the world as we reach out to “the least of these.” 

Brecht keeps his story moving through song and Arena’s production pairs the confrontational, driving energy of hip-hop music with the playwright’s need to be heard. Beats and textures dominate the soundscape as characters and musicians fall in and out of rhythm with Brecht’s songs and dialogue. 

Working with composer Elliot Leung '17 and director Michael Stauffer, we fit words to music to stage in a daunting feat of multi-media manipulation. We decided to end the play with a prayer. 

I adapted the tune of this “Dona Nobis Pacem” from the end of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 8, composed shortly after WWII. The tempestuous symphony plots the end of a turbulent war and concludes in a major key, but deep rumblings of twisted musical phrases continue beneath the tranquility. The peace is not so peaceful after all. To reference Isaiah, though: we cry for peace! There is none. Perhaps as Christians we are the peacemakers of the world. Brecht certainly begs us to be.

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Max Pointner '18 is a sophomore art history major and part of Arena Theatre. To learn more about Wheaton theatre and the play Caucasian Chalk Circle, visit Arena Theatre's website.

Photo Captions: Lauren Gathman '17 and Olivia Wilder '16; Max Pointner '18 and Wilder; Gathman, Travis Shanahan '16, John Ingraham '18

Photo Credits: Paul Vermeesch '18 

College Union: Live, Laugh, Let Loose!

Posted November 4, 2015 by Tyler Hansen '16

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During our last All School Communion, Chaplain Blackmon asked the student body to take out our phones and tweet our prayer for Wheaton College. Without hesitation, I typed with my millennial-paced thumbs, “that our campus would take itself less seriously.” This prayer for Wheaton has also motivated my involvement in College Union during my junior and senior years at Wheaton.

College Union is an organization composed of 12 students who coordinate some of Wheaton’s most beloved events: President’s Ball, Talent Show, Roller Disco, Air Jam, Class Films, and dozens more. But College Union is about so much more than simply drawing large crowds of people. We believe that behind the strange costumes, loud music, and goofy events lie our mission and purpose—because Wheaton students, myself included, have a tendency to take ourselves too seriously.

On College Union, we believe that our events matter to the vitality of our campus because they remind our accomplishment and excellence-saturated culture that there is more to us as people than what we do, or what we accomplish. A good GPA, which I may or may not possess, or a robust résumé, of which I may or may not boast, are fine, but they can never take the place of laughter, goofiness, or letting loose that is necessary for human flourishing. As the song goes, “a little party never killed nobody.”

This mission, to offer events that energize our student body, keeps the College Union team motivated to continue to provide some of the staple events that our campus community looks forward to every year. But this doesn’t exhaust College Union’s mission: this year’s team is always looking for new and fresh ways to invigorate our campus. Already this year we have introduced a mechanical bull at our annual square dance and used the French House as a massive canvas for community art pieces. Who knows what this year’s College Union team will dream up next? And hopefully, event by event, our campus will be encouraged to play, goof around, and ultimately, take ourselves less seriously.

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Tyler Hansen '16, a Biblical and Theological studies major, is the president of CU this year. Visit their websites for more information about College Union and Student Activities Office (SAO) events. 

Photo Credits: College Union 2014-15; Taylor Schuster '16 tries his hand at the square dance's mechanical bull this fall; students explore the spray-painted walls of the French House during College Union's SASS event. 

From China to Wheaton: TESOL and Intercultural Studies

Posted October 28, 2015 by Natasha Zeng M.A. '16

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It was October 1, 2014. After a seemingly endless copy editing session with the staff of Huntington University’s campus newspaper, I clicked into my email box to filter through my messages. It was there that I found my acceptance letter from the Wheaton College Graduate School.

“Dear Natasha, I am pleased to inform you that you are being offered admission to the Masters of Arts program in Intercultural Studies and TESOL …”

I rubbed my eyes. 

I couldn’t believe what I saw. 

Wheaton is my dream school. Back in 2007, I went to Franklin Graham’s four-day festival at Hong Kong Stadium in Hong Kong. At the time, I didn’t know who Franklin or Billy Graham were, and I wasn’t aware of their connections to Wheaton. Amazed by how jam-packed the auditorium was, I saw that 423,335 people from 800 different churches attended the event. After my experience at the festival, I found out my longtime family friend Jana Hoobler M.A. ’06, who has been teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) for over twenty years in Zhuhai city and Macau in China, was a Wheaton graduate. That’s how I heard of Wheaton for the very first time.

Coming from a journalism background at a small private Christian university in Indiana, I never once thought about coming to Wheaton until my junior year, when one of my professors  presented the top three TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) programs in the nation, which included Wheaton. Later on, I took my TESOL class about listening and speaking with professor Virginia Clough Yang M.A. ’11, who also went through the TESOL program at Wheaton. Next thing I knew, I made my decision to apply. 

I love Wheaton not only because it offers one of the best TESOL programs in the nation, but I also love the fact that we get to celebrate cultural diversity. I get to interact with people from all over the world—whether they are from Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Brazil, or Mongolia. They have shown me a world of excitement, mystery, and uniqueness.   

I also appreciate how TESOL applies educational theories into everyday life. By listening to Dr. Alan Seaman and his experiences in Southeast Asia, Dr. Cheri Pierson and her Ph.D. studies in Europe, and Dr. Pam Barger’s upbringing in Chicagoland, what I am learning is more than just how to teach—I also learn what to teach, whether it is using technology or books, social media or print media. 

I love Wheaton not only because I can further my education, but also because I get to grow in Christ. I am starting to see and understand that we are all parts of God’s ministry. God has planned everything one step ahead for me. He knows Wheaton is the right place for me to equip myself physically and spiritually. Seeing all the internship opportunities ahead of me with organizations like World Relief, ELIC, Wycliffe, Pui Tak Center, and other resources in the greater Chicago area, I am excited to explore a career that can blend TESOL and journalism together. 

Natasha Zeng M.A. ’16 is a student from Zhuhai, China, studying intercultural studies and TESOL at Wheaton College Graduate School. Photo captions (from top): A group from the English Language Institute of China (ELIC) came to study at Wheaton College Graduate School during summer 2015; Every year, Wheaton’s TESOL department offers a field trip to Little India, Chicago. In fall 2015, the group went to South Asian Friendship center and went for Pakistani food; Wheaton’s TESOL department provides a variety of internship opportunities based in Chicago.

Dance as Worship: Zoe's Feet

Posted February 25, 2015 by Matthew Adams '17

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When described on paper, Matthew Adams '17 may seem like a thoroughly left-brained academic, focusing on pre-med classes as a freshman before switching to a political science major and ultimately hoping to pursue a career in law after he graduates from Wheaton.

What doesn’t come out on paper, though, is Matthew’s profound love for dance.

“When I step onto a dance floor, especially when I’m there by myself just worshipping God, there’s this peace that comes over me,” Matthew says.

In addition to dancing alone in the SRC studio or informally with his friends, Matthew has found an outlet for his passion through his involvement with Zoe’s Feet, a ministry on campus that seeks to facilitate worship for performers and their audiences through live dance routines.

“Zoe means life; and Zoe’s feet is like ‘life-feet,’ showing the life that God has given us, through dance,” Matthew notes.

The group brings together dancers with different stylistic backgrounds and different degrees of experience, uniting a diverse group of dancers with the goal of embodying worship through movement. While some Zoe’s Feet members have been dancing since childhood, others, like Matthew, only recently discovered their love for dance.

“I started [dancing] my senior year of high school, which is kind of unbelievable,” Matthew explains. “But I really just felt called to dance and worship with my body… I really enjoyed it and I was good at it, as well, so that’s why I decided to start it here at Wheaton College.

Zoe’s Feet members dance together, but they also meet regularly to fellowship and support one another spiritually. To Matthew, the potential for dance to operate as worship is so strong that the connection between praying together and twirling together seems natural.

“I feel like God created dance so we could worship him, because it’s giving our entire selves to him, which is a beautiful thing,” he says. “And that’s what dance allows me to do.”

Matthew Adams is a sophomore political science major from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Learn more about his dreams and favorite Wheaton moments on his author bio page.

Opus: The Art of Work Launch Week

Posted February 12, 2015 by Sarah Britton Miller '17

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Opus the art of work wheaton college

From the first BITH 111 class to the last senior seminar, Wheaton students become well-versed in talking about the integration of faith and learning. Slightly less common is the conversation about faith and work—until last month, when Opus: the Art of Work launched on Wheaton’s campus.  

Headquartered in the Billy Graham Center, Opus is a new institute that “exists to provide leadership in the interdisciplinary study of faith and work, and to prepare Christians to flourish in a breadth of vocational roles for the sake of the common good.” Opus intends to serve Wheaton students, faculty, and off-campus constituents by hosting activities and programs such as an undergraduate vocational discernment program, a faculty fellowship program, church workshops, and various public speakers and events.

On Saturday, January 24, Opus hosted its first official event to kick off launch week. Nancy Writebol, a missionary and Ebola survivor, and Admiral Tim Ziemer, coordinator of the President’s Malaria Initiative, spoke to an audience of students, faculty, and community members about their callings to service.

The rest of the week was filled with one fantastic event after another, including panels on solutions for poverty alleviation, entrepreneurship and innovation, a public discussion on faith and vocation, and a lecture and interview with members of the Redeemer Presbyterian Gotham Fellowship. 

Phil Vischer Wheaton College Opus

On Tuesday afternoon, I attended a panel called “Creativity Wanted: How Business, Mathematics, and the Hard Sciences Need Artists and Other Creative Thinkers.” Steve Garber, Dr. Kristen Page, Phil Vischer, and Mark Woodworth each spoke brilliantly on how art and science are never separate within their respective professions, but are integral parts of their work.

Mark Woodworth summed up the discussion well by saying, “We need art for life, and vice versa.” He posed the question, “How can I serve the needs of others, especially needs for truth, beauty, and good?”

On Wednesday evening, I had another opportunity to learn from people who are answering that question in their own lives. Katherine Leary Alsdorf and the Gotham Fellows kindly sat down with students to answer questions in a “speed-networking” format where groups rotated every 20 minutes. I thought this was a great way for students to engage with people who could give invaluable advice and insight into the professional world beyond Wheaton. 

Opus Launch Week came to a close on Thursday, January 29th. Junior Zach Kahler, director of the Opus Student Strategy Team, described his own excitement for the new institute: “I’ve really appreciated the opportunity I’ve had to participate in Opus's debut…It’s been great to see a movement on Wheaton’s campus that emphasizes the truth of God calling us to a broad range of vocational fields for his glory.”

Opus the Art of Work Nancy Writebol

Sarah Britton Miller ’17 is a sophomore studying communications and international relations. Photos (from top): Mark Woodworth explaining a wood photography piece during the "Creativity Wanted" panel; Phil Vischer speaking during the "Creativity Wanted" panel; Nancy and David Writebol.
Credits: Zach Erwin ’17.

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