Check out these stories from current students and alumni who are using theater in a wide variety of contexts!
My time at Arena Theater got at the heart of acting, and of Shakespeare, Miller, Norman, and Stoppard. It was the beginning of a long journey into learning what it is to be actively present in the world, with myself, with others, and with God that extends far beyond the acting work that is now a part of my life. I met God like I had never met Him before at Arena Theater, as a Being that loved me not in spite of my shortcomings and failures, but in the midst of them. If I had never set foot on a stage again that would have made the countless hours I spent in Arena Theater worth every second; as someone who knows the pursuit of this craft will mark the entirety of my life, it was also an invaluable opening into that world.
Jenn Cribbs ’99
It was one of the first rehearsals of my first show at Arena Theater, and I sat in a circle on the floor listening to older theater students speak. Just speak. And listen. Just listen. For a few moments it was like they were talking with a thick and far off accent that I couldn't quite understand. These people were speaking and listening more humanly than I had ever known, and my unpracticed spirit didn't quite know how to translate. But I do remember one thought: this is where I need to be. This is why I came to Wheaton. In retrospect I can't imagine my life today without Workout and Arena Theater. It gave me the language--body, spirit, and mind--to speak with the world as my heart has always longed to speak.
Blake V. Kent ’02
Pastor-Writer-Photographer / Vancouver, BC
Theater at Wheaton is unique because our Arena Theater is the product of the work of an ensemble. The members of Workout not only act in the productions, but they all work on a crew (costumes, sets, or lights) as well. In the process, a tight-knit community is built.
Theater isn't a waste of time. The tools learned in Arena Theater are helpful for any career path one may choose to go down post-college. While the takeaway may seem more obvious for an aspiring actor or actress, some tools that a theater maker can apply to any job include: the ability to collaborate, solve problems creatively, confront your fears, and understand the importance of people's stories.
Theatrical arts give humans a way to be with people. There is something special about watching performers bring a story to life right in front of you and reacting in real time alongside other spectators. Imagine how you can feel the stillness in the air during a tense moment in a play as everybody in the audience holds their breath at the same time.
Additionally, the work of theater in a community can serve as a way to hold people's stories with respect. While we live on this Earth alongside people that may hold contrasting views, as Christians, seeing and making theater can be a helpful tool for how to love our neighbors better.
The majority of people in the program don’t plan on going into theatre! The people in Arena are an eclectic group with a variety of interests and professional goals. Alongside the comprehensive theatre skills which you will attain (like directing, acting, and theatre tech) Arena Theater is a four-year masterclass in interpersonal connection and community building. Through the course of my four years in Arena Theater, I’ve witnessed scenes by people who had never acted before in their lives which brought me to tears, I’ve seen my friends grow in ways that their stories can’t adequately be communicated in a short paragraph, and I’ve been given opportunities to practice concrete leadership abilities which extend in and beyond the world of theatre. Arena cares deeply about your development as a theatre artist, if that’s what you wish to do, but it cares more about the person who comes out at the end of four years, that you will be someone who possesses compassion, confidence, stellar communication abilities, and a loving community of some amazing men and women to rely on.
Before coming to Wheaton, I’d been in theatre circles where theatre was primarily a competition—an extracurricular in which some select people were permitted the opportunity to excel while others were not. I’ve also been in circles where theatre is a business in which one's skills must be perfect, finely and anxiously tuned in the hopes of one day getting lucky enough to allow the anxiety and self-doubt to fade away. At Wheaton, it is different. Theatre at Wheaton is not the by-product of simultaneous hyper-inflated egos and insecurities. Instead, it’s built on humility and empathy, as well as the community’s mutual love of Christ and for storytelling.
Cole Dennis, '19