Student Activities

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. 

Art, Business, 12x12

Posted October 21, 2015 by Philip Christiansen '16

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Wheaton College’s Art Department hosts an annual exhibition, 12x12, showcasing student art no larger than twelve inches in any dimension. This year, I submitted a portrait of Charlotte Hallstrom ’16 originally taken for Digital Photography with Professor Greg Halvorsen Schreck during the fall of 2013. 

In addition to displaying a striking portrait, I wanted to depart from the traditional display medium of a print on matte or glossy paper. Instead, I decided to have the portrait printed on a 12-inch metal sheet, which resulted in a number of unique visual nuances. When the print is viewed in person, lighter areas of the photo—Charlotte’s hands and face—are transparent, revealing the underlying grain of the metal, while darker areas take on a reflective quality that almost puts you in the photo when seeing it head-on. 

While the theme of this year’s 12x12 competition is “Work: Curse or Calling,” I don’t seek to influence the viewer toward a particular vein of thought regarding vocation. Charlotte’s positive yet not-wholly-defined expression allows the viewer to project emotion onto the piece and leaves room for speculation about its purpose. 

Though Wheaton’s community was the strongest draw for me as a prospective student, I have so enjoyed the opportunity to study art alongside my business/economics major. Wheaton’s art professors certainly exhibit some of the stereotypical quirkiness you would expect from a university art professor, which creates a flexible and laid-back classroom environment. This unique environment fosters openness and a level of discussion not typically found in other courses at Wheaton. All in all, from performing drawing stretches during breaks with Professor Leah Samuelson to critiquing work over homemade scones in graphic design with Professor Jeremy Botts, art classes at Wheaton will regularly challenge, shock, and remind you to take yourself just a little bit less seriously.

Philip Christiansen ’16 is a senior studying business/economics with a minor in art. Photo Caption: Christiansen's 12x12 entry of Charlotte Hallstrom '16.

Wheaton Soccer: More Than A Sport

Posted October 7, 2015 by Marshall Hollingsworth '16

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Marshall Hollingsworth ’16 was reluctant to go to Wheaton—the dream was to attend a D1 school and play soccer professionally. He changed his mind after his visit to Wheaton in the fall of his senior year, though.

“I realized there are more important things in life than just soccer,” Marshall says.

His freshman year, things seemed to be going well: the team was winning and Marshall got a lot of playing time. However, an injury to his knee right before post-season challenged his identity.

“I spent a lot of time in prayer, really talking to God about it and just trying to figure out what I was going to do if I couldn’t play soccer…that’s when I learned to lean on God,” Marshall says.

According to Marshall, the most amazing thing about being a Wheaton College student is the people who are willing to pour into the lives of the students and help them grow both emotionally and spiritually.

“I have not experienced God’s love as much as I have these past three years at Wheaton College,” Marshall shares.

Watch the video above to see Marshall share more about how playing soccer at Wheaton has shaped who he is as a person and athlete.

Marshall Hollingsworth ’16 is a senior studying business and economics. Learn more about Wheaton soccer on the Wheaton Thunder website, Twitter @Wheaton_Thunder, and Instagram @Wheaton_Thunder. Video filmed, produced, and edited by Kevin Schmalandt.

Wheaton Passage: From Separation to Integration

Posted September 14, 2015 by Charlston Ong '19

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Technology is an essential part of our lives. Well, for my life at least. So when I found out I would not be able to update family and friends during Passage at HoneyRock, my heart sank. However, as the days went by, I was really glad that we didn’t have access to electronic devices. 

When we first arrived at HoneyRock, it was late in the night, and tiki torches illuminated our path to a campfire on top of a hill. Worship music started playing softly and everyone started singing. The stars lit up the night sky and with a glow stick from our cabin leaders, we headed to our cabins to settle in. That is where I met the members of Cabin 18 for the first time. It felt overwhelming to me coming from Singapore, which has a totally different culture from United States, but as the days went by, the friendliness and the closeness of our group helped not only me but also the group integrate into Wheaton’s community. 

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We were so close that we even had to remind ourselves to go in pairs to sit with others at different groups during meal times, instead of sitting together. We also met Cabin 12, our sister cabin, and bonded over games and activities. Besides getting to know these two groups of people, I slowly opened up and interacted with others at HoneyRock. I would say the absence of technology helped us “live in the moments” of camp and also helped us connect to God on a more personal level. Even the professors helped to break down barriers, which helped tremendously. As Passage came to a close, tiki torches illuminated our paths to the closing ceremony once again, signifying the end with more worship songs around a campfire. Our closeness as whole camp of people was evident. It felt like it was still going to be evident when we arrived back on Wheaton’s campus. 

The members of Cabins 12 and 18 still make it a point to greet each other and have meals with each other on Wheaton’s campus. I am really glad that I attended Passage—the eight days of fun and adventure really eased my process of integration into the Wheaton Community. This is an experience I will never forget, and I wish I could do it all over again. 

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Charlston Ong ’19 is a freshman at Wheaton. Find out more about the Wheaton Passage program at HoneyRock. Photo captions (from top): Fellowship around a campfire at HoneyRock; Members of Cabins 12 and 18 get ice cream in Three Lakes, Wisconsin, and gather at the Loberg Lodge cafeteria; Charlston (front, center) and fellow members of Cabin 18 arrive at HoneyRock.

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