Not just a stage, but a mission field

December 2, 2013 | 11 a.m.

Theater department gives students skills for life, allows them to reflect on deeper issues through acting

Culture | Rachel Wilson

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Brynn Berryhill and Lily Podany portray Olive and Florence in Bethel's Odd Couple: the Female Version. | Photo for The Clarion courtesy of Brent Adams

The Twin Cities has built itself a hefty reputation in the art world. Among various museums, first-rate concert venues, numerous architectural attractions and the ever-cultured citizens, the Twin Cities also boasts the highest number of theatre seats per capita across the entire United States, next to New York City.

It’s no wonder theatre has taken on a life of its own in the midwestern city Bethel calls home. In the same manner, arts are playing an increasingly important role at Bethel.

While small, the theatre department constituted of three full-time professors, several adjuncts, twenty-some majors and numerous minors, holds its own on this liberal arts campus. The department offers a major in theatre arts where students can choose between two emphases—acting and directing or musical theatre. They also offer several minors, including a new minor, educational theatre.

Nestled in a cramped wing on the first floor of the Clausen Center, where props are casually used as office furniture, the theatre department presents three shows each academic year. Previously, the department had four productions, but faced the loss of one show as part of the “Prioritization and Review” cuts.

While theatre majors are required to participate in at least six shows prior to graduation, all productions are open to any student at Bethel and can be taken for class credit.

Faculty of the theatre department intentionally choose challenging productions. This theme seems to be one the department is committed to—not just training for the stage as an actor or actress, but training for life as a Christ follower.

“I agree with the department’s choice to occasionally push the boundaries,” junior Krissi Dines said. Dines has declared an individualized major, performing arts entrepreneurship and administration and is actively involved in the theater department.

“How can we, as student of Bethel, be expected to go out and witness to those who believe differently than us if we have only been exposed to our own set of ideals and standards?" questioned Dines. "When I am asked to play a character with questionable morals and evident sin, I, in no way, consider that glorifying sin. Rather, I grow to love that character just as Jesus loved the sinner.”

Professor Meg Zauner, the chair of the theatre department, is intimately involved in the department’s decision-making in this regard.

“Sometimes we think that evangelism is about being a missionary. I can’t think of a place that needs things more than the secular world and theatre,” she said.

The productions present timeless themes and dig into the head and heart of the human experience. “You don’t have to dumb everything down. Part of what we see as our mission is to present challenging questions,” Zauner attests, recognizing that students and audiences alike are more than ready to rise to the challenge.

“I believe that we are…exposing human nature. Theater is an extremely raw art form. Characters are inspired by real people, with real sin,” Dines explains, acknowledging how uncomfortable it can be to experience the results of our sinful world in such an intimate way.

Theatre gives you more than skills for the stage. It gives you skills for life. Try out for a show. Buy a ticket. Chat with them. They’d love to get to know you. Head on down to the first floor CC for more information.

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