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) Actor/ New York City
The theatre community at Wheaton College had- and continues to have- a profound impact on my life. It led me into questions and challenged certain assumptions about life and acting and, in surprising ways, deepened God's truth and astonishing Grace- through the voices of Shakespeare, Ibsen, Miller, Shanley, Guirgis... My most prized memories are the moments in Workout on Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:15-5:30 during which, seemingly out of nowhere, an encounter with another person would shake me alive in a new way, and reveal a beauty previously unexpressed in my life though secretly longed for, and I found myself leaving the doors of Arena with gratitude and awe.
- Christopher Domig ('03) Actor/ New York City
(In Arena Theater)...I learned about 'speaking the truth in love', and how sometimes Truth is the most important thing, and sometimes Love is.... and a little bit about the difference; that a Community doesn't always agree, but a Community always "is". Arena Theater taught me about Honesty; how to look inward and evaluate myself, how to look outward and communicate. How to be authentic in the midst of a world that sometimes would rather not hear the honest truth- (see above re: truth vs. love). My whole life, my experience was of the church valuing the "Sunday-school" answer...Workout taught me that being a Christian demands more than easy or pithy, that sometimes the question is as valuable as the answer, and that the answers are not always simple.
- Christy Estoll ('98) Homemaker-Nursing Student/ Lafayette, CO.
Workout changed my life. I mean, in every way possible. Five years after graduating I'm not doing professional theater, but everyday I draw on my theater experience at Workout and what I learned about life, myself and how God views the world. I learned how to breathe, be fully present in the moment, relate to people very different from me, and be more wholly me. I became a healthier person and learned how to express that too. My heart for others grew through this time, but so did my ability to relate to the world around me. And all this is even more significantly impacting my daily walk and desire for intimacy with God.
- Christy Fleming ('04) Business Professional/ Minneapolis, MN.
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 with 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
Ten years after graduating from Wheaton College, I now live in a very poor neighborhood of Buffalo, New York and work as the Arts Director of an urban non-for-profit, Peace of the City. I work with youth who will never have the opportunities or access to resources that I had. My biggest project to date was directing our 2009 production of Romeo and Juliet with 25 high-schoolers from 12 different public schools. Within Arena Theater and Workout, I was invited into a safe, creative community. The energy of our Workout community, and the individuals in it, was both vulnerable and powerful. As I work to create and translate sacred spaces for "the least of these", I am daily informed by my work, my friends, and my teachers at Arena.
- Megan McClain Kwacz (00') Creative Arts Director/ Buffalo, NY
I didn't come to Wheaton for the theater department- but that is where I ended up spending all my time and, in the end, what shaped my entire Wheaton experience. Arena Theater is an amazing place of discovery; a place where students are given the challenge to grow and the grace to fail. As a professional actor, writer, and director the lessons I learned in that time have shaped me more than any other in my life.
- Judson Morgan ('97) Actor-Director/ LA, CA.
My three years in Workout enlarged and expanded my life and sense of what I could do. By this, I mean that Workout taught me to become interested in human things I most feared -- things like anger and failure, trembling and heartbreak. As I pressed into these things, I came to know God more fully. I think about Workout several times a day from Uganda because that community continues to help me so much in relating to others. Here, relationship is everything, and spending time with people is all-important. People want to know not only how are you doing, but how is your mother, how is your father, how are your chickens, your cows. They will even ask the sweeping question, how is your life? Meaning, who are you and what do you care about?In Workout, I learned a lot about 1) being quiet and present with people and not rushing with them and 2) allowing myself to be interested in and explore details. Both these things count for a lot in Uganda, and maybe anywhere in the world.
- Laura Stewart ('07) Communications, International Justice Mission / Uganda
Arena Theater laid the framework for ... learning to play for sheer joy, seriously, spontaneously, taking risks, making choices, committing to what's in front of me, being present with myself and others, letting go of outcomes, staying open to possibility, being willing to be surprised, working with mistakes, being seen, communicating with my whole being, facing inhibitions, looking at what is in the way, looking for what is available, meeting the eyes of the world, connecting my personal story with the collective story and imagining how my art is connected to my life. These have been essential ingredients in growing as a professional artist, therapist and collaborator in the world of Expressive Arts Therapy.
- Heidi Thornberg ('02) Expressive Arts Therapist/ LA, CA.