The New World Theatre: where the memories live

Zach Steensma–Staff Writer

December 8th marked the final showing of the Dordt College Theatre Arts production Walk Two Moons. But it was more than just the closing night of the show’s run; it was the final show to take place in the New World Theatre.

The New World Theatre, currently sandwiched in the heart of campus in the old section of the classroom building, was formerly a gymnasium at Dordt College before being converted into a theatre space in 1977. Since then, the New World has hosted countless hours of auditions, rehearsals, stagecraft, set building and shows for a number of theatrical productions.

At the conclusion of the play, Dordt College Theatre arts professor and department chair Dr. Teresa Ter Haar took a few moments to stand before the audience and provide brief history of how the space has served the department over the last 41 years.

The event was commemorated with brief ceremony that involved a photo shoot of the last cast, crew and audience that will ever enjoy a performance in the space.

At one point, Ter Haar asked the audience to raise their hands if they had ever worked in the New World. It quickly became apparent that the audience largely made up of Dordt faculty, students, and alumni, as nearly every single hand in the room shot up.

Construction has already begun on the new home of the theatre department, located on the south end of campus, in what will serve as the new space for the scene and costume shops, as well as a new stage space.

“The intial idea of it is really sad, because of the sentimental side of it” noted Dordt alumnus Luke Venhuizen, who was present at the event. “I always feel like I’m back at home when I come here…but it’s also really exciting because [the department] has been asking for a new space for a while. Ultimately, it’s the people who make the department, not the space.”

The department move is expected to take place in February, before spring break. The current space will be converted into nursing and digital media classrooms and offices, while the new space will host the theatre department until a more permanent campus fine arts center is completed adjacent to the BJ Haan auditorium, after which it reconverted into a pro-tech shop.

Senior Theatre Arts Major and Walk Two Moons director Jalyn Vander Wal also spoke at
the occasion, noting that she had worked on 5 different shows in the space just during her time as a student at Dordt.

“I’m sad that it’s closing…but once we’re out of the temporary space and get our own full size theatre, it’s gonna be fab”, said Vander Wal. Walk Two Moons couldn’t have been a more fitting send off for the theatre. Based on the book by Sharon Creech and adapted by Tom Arvetis, the touching coming-of-age story about a young girl named Sal (portrayed by freshman Renee Seaman) copes with her past and looks ahead to her future. It’s a story where the past, present and future are drawn together.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Ter Haar led those present in the singing of the doxology, a longtime department tradition used before performances to recognize entry into a new space.

As the last echoes of the vocal chorus faded away, the room returned to its normal closing night environment as audience members congratulated the cast and crew shortly before they set to work on strike, stacking up chairs and tearing down the set.

Within a few short hours, the theatre was restored once again to its vacant state. Only
a few leftover screws, flakes of sawdust, and splatters of paint remained, the sole witnesses of yet another successful performance within the aged brick walls.

Towards the end of Walk Two Moons, as Sal says goodbye to her friends before moving back home, she makes the following observation: “I don’t think we always have a choice where the memories live.”

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