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Teaching Today’s Generation: Abigail Stolberg

Teaching Today’s Generation: Abigail Stolberg

Abigail Stolberg is a recent graduate of Calvary University who is equipped to teach today’s generation.

“I look forward to taking hold of every opportunity God has for me.”

Abigail Stolberg graduated this spring with a degree in Secondary English Education and a minor in Theatre Arts. Originally from Ogallala, Nebraska, she served at Calvary as a Resident Discipleship Director in the dorms, and performed in several Calvary productions, while directing others. Along with these roles, Abigail states that she has always had a desire to be a teacher: “I love working with people to help them learn, especially when it is something I’m passionate about.” 

Abigail says that her time at Calvary supplied her with many tools to help her gain success, both practically and personally: “I am grateful for the education department and the high standard of excellence they hold. I’ve done practical preparation to obtain the skills needed to be a good teacher, and I feel well-equipped to enter the field of education. Now, I’m passionate and excited about representing Christ by doing excellent work for Him.”

Abigail recounts that when she first started at Calvary, she was riddled with anxiety, homesickness, and fear. Throughout those challenges, she shares, “I was so grateful for the community at Calvary; even though I was afraid, I didn’t have to be alone. One of my friends encouraged me to pray, not just when I was anxious or afraid, but regularly, and when I did, my life transformed.”

She also adds that the biblical foundation Calvary instilled throughout her education has been “absolutely invaluable” to her personally, and has helped prepare her for the future: “The emphasis on serving the Lord in everything we do is something I try to carry into the classroom each day. Through my relationships within the Christian community at Calvary, I’ve been encouraged and pushed to know Christ better and to be more like Him.” 

During her years at Calvary, Abigail served in various leadership positions, including the Nikao Leadership Institute and the Residence Life team. These programs helped her gain firsthand experience in leadership roles, building relationships, and gaining new perspectives: “I’ve learned from some incredible mentors who have been and who continue to be very influential in my life. This has made me a stronger leader.”

Today, Abigail is eager to get into a classroom of her own and start implementing everything she has learned from Calvary. Now that she has gained the knowledge and experience needed to enter her career field, she states: “I expect to put into practice the skills I’ve gained, and grow both personally and professionally. I want to serve, love, and teach people, and I look forward to taking hold of every opportunity God has for me.”

 

 

Calvary student wins U.S. Naval Institute writing contest

Calvary student wins U.S. Naval Institute writing contest

Student Mike Burke, author of “Crowdfunded”, pictured rehearsing the role of El Gallo for Calvary’s upcoming production of The Fantasticks.

Burke inspired by Calvary’s English and Theatre Departments

by Amanda Harman

The year is 2038. An intense battle is raging between the technologically advanced Marines and the genetically-enhanced enemy. The tide of the battle turns against the Marines, and with no sign of help, they desperately use a less conventional source for rescue.

Calvary University English Literature and Creative Writing Major Mike Burke’s contest-winning short story “Crowdfunded” follows this platoon of Marines as they navigate through an abandoned city, avoiding ambushes, using every trick up their sleeves to hold off the enemy, and generally just trying to stay alive. Burke, a retired Marine himself, cowrote the story with his friend Nicholas Nethery, who is still on active duty in Europe with the Army. Their piece “Crowdfunded” won first prize in the U.S. Naval Institute-CIMSEC Fiction Essay Contest.

“There are so many talented people out there with great stories to tell; it never occurred to me we would do so well,” Burke says. “The notion that we wrote the kind of story they want to read feels great.” The coauthors are already talking about their next story on explosives disposal techs and smart munitions.

On the inspiration behind the winning entry, Burke says, “Our story addresses a number of issues the future military might face, including moral and ethical issues.” He adds, “All the tech in the story actually exists or is in development.” Another source of inspiration was English classes at Calvary, where Burke learned how to outline a plot in Creative Writing and how to write purposeful dialogue in Playwriting.

Besides writing, Burke enjoys being part of the Theatre Department at Calvary, and he will be starring in the upcoming production of The Fantasticks. Burke says that English and Theatre have so much overlap that “When I write I feel like a gunfighter with a pistol in each hand.”

Burke’s advice to fellow writers comes from experience: “Good writing has been drafted and rewritten a bunch of times so it’s okay if yours is too. It’s also fine to write a draft of something and set it aside for six months and look at it with fresh eyes. Just don’t do that with your homework.”

You may read “Crowdfunded” by following this link to the U.S. Naval Institute website.

 

Spring Musical: The Fantasticks

Spring Musical: The Fantasticks

Cast, left to right: (Back row) Esther McRae (Mute), Mike Burke (El Gallo), Leah McNabb (Mute), Adam Weeks (Matt), Ashley Huseby (Huck); (Front row) Logan Hiskey (Mortimer), Rebekkah Harms (Luisa), Abigail Tschetter (Miss Bell), Mary Lenk (Henri).

          This March, Calvary University’s Theatre Arts department will present The Fantasticks, a moving musical comedy with an enduring message. A small cast of nine Calvary students is rehearsing for the performance of the enduring show, a charming account of the trials of love, parenthood, and gardening.

          The story calls the audience to see value in both the joys and the sorrows of life. “Without a hurt, the heart is hollow,” sings the narrator, welcoming the listener alongside a handful of flawed, but loveable characters who learn to fully respect and appreciate life’s blessings and difficulties. As King Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh.” Join us March 12-21 for a time of weeping, laughter, singing, dancing, sword fighting, and more in this and much more!

“Without a hurt, the heart is hollow”

Suggested age: 10+ (Due to comedic violence). 

Tickets will be available February 1, 2021 at our Box Office online.

 The Fantasticks is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI. www.MTIShows.com

Alum Returns to Chair Theatre Department

Alum Returns to Chair Theatre Department

Top right: England performs in Calvary’s 2010 production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Bottom right: England as The Cat in the Hat for Calvary’s 2013 production of Seussical.

“Story is a way to worship.”

Calvary alumnus Kenneth England is taking over the Theatre Department following the retirement of department chair Bobbie Jeffrey. England grew up in rural Illinois and came to Calvary for a bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts. He said, “I knew that I wanted Bible education and Theatre education. I decided to do the Bible first and Calvary is where my parents attended and where my older sister was a sophomore.” After finishing his degree at Calvary, he earned his MFA in Acting from Purdue.

Theatre has been integral in England’s life for many years. He decided to pursue it as a career while in high school. “I was enraptured with the act of creation involved with theatre. Theatre’s magic captured me… I had never experienced such passion and joy as I did while doing theatre. I decided to take a risk and pursue a career path that I loved and inspired me.”

England started teaching at the undergraduate level while studying at Purdue. In the spring semester of 2020, he joined Calvary’s faculty as an adjunct professor of Theatre Arts. England said when the role of Department Chair opened up, he applied because he believes “Calvary needs a Theatre Department and I want to do what I can to make it successful.” He added that he was invested in the department because of the influence it had on his own spiritual growth. “When I was a student, the department played a huge part in the development of my spiritual life. In fact, many aspects of the faith did not make sense or only became personal to me after I learned to put Christianity in the context of story. I want to be able to provide the opportunity for that same growth to the students.”

As he steps into this new position, England is excited for the opportunities to help students connect their art with their faith and “connect the techniques of theater with Christianity.” He noted that the department is in a time of change, both in leadership and in the transition to a minor-only program. Since the department will only perform one full production per school year, England is looking for more ways to provide opportunities for student led projects. England said story is a powerful method to teach about relationships and connections and understanding the world around us. But ultimately, he said, “Story is a way to worship. God is an artistic God… So, when we engage in art, it is worship.”

A Look Back at One Voice

A Look Back at One Voice

Director Bobbie Jeffrey and Playwright and Lyricist Deborah Craig-Claar reflect on Calvary’s Spring Musical, One Voice.

In March, Calvary’s Theatre and Music Departments performed the musical, One Voice. When CU’s president, Dr. Christopher Cone, first asked Theatre Department Head Bobbie Jeffrey to produce a biblical musical, she contacted her friend and mentor Deborah Craig-Claar about adapting Craig-Claar’s Easter pageant One Voice for Calvary’s theatre.

One Voice follows the ministry of Christ through the eyes of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. Craig-Claar said, “I have always been fascinated with the big cast of “secondary characters” in the Bible. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were two such characters and I have often wondered not only how these two Pharisees came to a saving knowledge of Christ, but when and where they finally professed their faith to the world and to each other. Now there’s a story! And I finally decided to try and tell it. The result was One Voice.”

When it came to adapting the script for CU, Craig-Claar said, “I think it comes down to a simple shift of focus: the larger pageant version focused on events; the musical theatre version emphasizes characters… The human story is what is central to good theatre and that’s what became front and center for Calvary’s production.”

Jeffrey commented, “I think some of the strongest moments of our particular show came as a result of our limitations.” Ceiling height limitations made it most practical to have the crucifixion happen offstage, which became one of the show’s most powerful moments. Jeffrey also noted that they didn’t have enough people for the final scene. “We only had probably fourteen people left on the stage when we got rid of all the people who had played bad guys. So at that point I just made a decision that that had to be a point where we took off the mask. We had the entire cast come back… and they were themselves as they sang the final verse and chorus of One Voice.”

The power of the story’s beauty reached more than just audiences and the director; it found it’s way into the cast as well. After the production, the cast and crew circled up to pray and discuss what they had learned through the process of the show. Jeffrey said, “A lot of their reactions were that there was such an incredible sense of unity among the cast. And no one said this because it would have been cheesy, but they spoke with one voice more than any other experience they’ve had in a show.”

Reflecting on Calvary’s production, Craig-Claar said, “I am so blessed and honored that even after 26 years, this show seems to keep finding a new perspective and a new voice. As I watched Calvary’s fantastic production, I remember thinking ‘Most of these actors weren’t even born when I wrote this.’ But that’s the eternal message of Christ’s story, isn’t it; it never fades, it never ages, it is ever present and forever life-changing.”

A Reluctant Pilgrim: “One Voice” Premieres Thursday, March 12

A Reluctant Pilgrim: “One Voice” Premieres Thursday, March 12

Amy Garlett, who plays Tamar, and Tori Roberts, who plays Tabitha, rehearse for One Voice with the rest of the Jerusalem crowd.

“We are a family knit together by the deep examination of the richest of texts… A family with a foundation of shared faith.”

Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Barukh shem k’vod malkhuto l’o lam va’ed!
Ani Adonai eloheikhem.

Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one.
Blessed is the name of God’s glorious kingdom forever!
Your God, Yahweh, am I.

So begins the prologue of One Voice. So began the unexpected journey of a very reluctant pilgrim. A few years ago, our university president, Dr. Cone, asked me to produce a biblical show. “Something with Biblical themes and values?” I asked. “Redemptive themes? A Christ figure as a protagonist? Something with definite allegorical parallels to the Christian experience? A modern parable?” 

“No,” he said, “a real, Bible times, Bible character, biblically true story, dramatized.” (Apologies toDr. Cone for the paraphrase!)

My heart sank. My mind was screaming! “AHHHhh! No…not a bathrobe musical! Shoot me now!”

But he wanted one. If I were going to do Shakespeare or a classic every four years, he wanted a biblical production as in Sight and Sound every four years. I protested we certainly didn’t have the technical capacity to pull off Noah, but he patiently steered me back to what was possible.

I went home, and the dam burst as excuses flooded the turbines! I can’t do cheesy Christian drama. There’s no good material. It all makes me gag. Often, the genre is emotionally manipulative. It’s end result is frequently counterproductive; it’s intended for unbelievers to encounter the truth but instead they’re offended by the method, while Christians remain in their comfort zone. Everything I’ve ever taught about conflict, character, plot, theatricality, and truth will be violated. My students will crucify me. At the very least, they’ll  brand me, and I will be forced to join Hester Prynne, wearing instead a scarlet H, a hypocrite condemned to roam the earth to the end of my days!

The boss was not to be dissuaded, so I settled down in my white leather office chair for a blue funk. I didn’t even know where to begin. It was then a wee niggle at the back of my cranium began to tickle. Many years ago, my mentor and good friend, Deborah Craig Claar, had given me a musical she had written with a collaborator, Robert Sterling. She had recently dusted it off for two large churches who had commissioned them to expand it to a full length musical. Twenty years ago, it was one of the few overtly Christian pieces of theatre I actually liked. So I took another look.

Fast forward to this moment with a cast of 27 intrepid players at Calvary, a distinctly Christian University. This is a cast composed primarily of Calvary undergraduates, but in our ranks are a retired Bible and theology prof, a mother getting a masters in education, a young woman with operatic training who once had high hopes of being a nun, two retired Sergeant Majors, an IT specialist, and the list goes on. A disparate group, but one rich in community. We are a family knit together by the deep examination of the richest of texts. A family with a bridge built of questions. A family with a foundation of shared faith. A family who understands what Jesus meant when He asked us to take up our cross daily. A family who desires truth in the inmost parts. A family with one voice.

For years my metaphor for creating story has been undergirded by making the word flesh from John 1. Never have I ever attempted to take the greatest story ever told and give it flesh. Examining the goals and obstacles of these flesh and blood biblical characters has made them come to life for me as no Bible study or sermon ever has. Meditating on their given circumstances, their humanity, and their fears has been a key to understanding my own. And so this reluctant pilgrim ends her journey surprised by joy, humbled by God’s gift, and standing in awe. May it bless you in the same way. Ani adonai eloheikhem!

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