From Sioux Center to New York, theatre is prevalent

Isabel Pheifer — Staff Writer 

Dordt University senior Sommer Schaap awakes to the sun gleaming through the windows in her 24th floor apartment in Brooklyn, New York. On the horizon, a glimpse of the green hand of the Statue of Liberty peeks out behind the skyscraper. After doing her routine morning workout, eating a steaming bowl of oatmeal, and dressing herself in business casual attire, Schaap heads down to Hoyt Street to catch the two or three train to Manhattan. After three stops and a short walk past the New York Stock Exchange and Trinity Church, Schaap finds herself at The King’s College, a partner school to Dordt where she is studying for the semester. This is just one of the opportunities theatre majors have while they attend Dordt.

Schaap, an acting and directing major, is in New York as part of one of the off-campus study programs Dordt has. Schaap had always been interested in studying off-campus. While researching where to go, Schaap originally planned to go to Los Angeles, but after COVID-19 struck, this was no longer an option. With help from Dordt’s previous coordinator of off-campus study Rebecca Tervo, Schaap got in contact with a professor from New York City Semester and decided that was the path for her. 

In New York, Schaap is not only exposed to theatre during class. As the city bustles with people rushing to get home from work at 5 p.m., Schaap hops on another train to start the second part of her day. The four or five train scuttles along and drops her at 59E59 Theaters, an off-Broadway theatre where she is interning for the semester. 

“It’s opening my eyes to all the avenues that are involved in this field,” Schaap said. “I can see first-hand what it is like to be a performing artist that lives in the city and does this for a living.” 

While theatre students can study off campus in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, studying on Dordt’s campus can be equally rewarding. Dordt started a theatre club last year, and it is continuing to pick up steam. 

Miranda Munson, a junior design and technical theatre major, is one of the founding board members. She said the club was created to design a space where anyone on campus that is interested in theatre can interact with each other. Dordt also hosts a fall and spring mainstage, and various studio shows as part of annual senior capstone projects that welcome any students on campus to audition. 

Professor of theatre arts Laurel Koerner described one of the most significant connections for theatre students at Dordt as their involvement in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. The ACTF includes interviews and auditions for theatre companies and graduate programs. 

The doors are open for all students, regardless of major, to be involved in theatre on campus. But the number of interested students is not stable. In 2007-2008, 16.1 percent of Dordt students were involved in theatre. That number dropped significantly in the span of a decade, with only 4.1 percent of students involved in 2017-2018, according to Dordt’s website.

“The number of students participating [in theatre] is healthy given our current resources,” Koerner said. “A significant increase in participant numbers would necessitate increasing the number of productions we stage, and the faculty and staff required to support that.” 

Miranda Munson has been involved in every show that Dordt puts on because of the passion she has for learning and growing her skills. Recently, Munson was stage manager for “Our Town,” Dordt’s fall mainstage. She also has her hand in Sioux Center Arts, and was their stage manager for “Mary Poppins” this past summer. 

Munson plans to attend the Chicago Semester this spring and intern in stage managing there. As a stage manager, she will not be in the spotlight like the actors or get the recognition the director might, but this does not limit Munson from feeling fulfilled. 

“I just love getting to see the creation come together from the ground up by being a crucial part of the process,” Munson said. “I get to see actors find parts of themselves they had not seen before.” 

There is a passion for theatre on Dordt’s campus. Whether students are leading warmups before a performance, learning in New York for the semester, spending six hours at the theatre in preparation for a show, or making connections with other actors and people in the community, theatre has a place at Dordt and around the country. 

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