Director helps students be part of something bigger

One woman’s passion shapes theater program

Apr 14, 2014 by and

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

ROSEDALE, Ohio — Every year at Rosedale Bible College, the stage in the chapel undergoes a transformation, students wander about practicing lines and examining their motivation, and Christa J. Wolf works her considerable magic as a director.

Algernon (Andrew Pullin) gets to know Cecily (Mary Beth Sharp) in Rosedale Bible College’s production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. — Aaron Beitzel/RBC

Algernon (Andrew Pullin) gets to know Cecily (Mary Beth Sharp) in Rosedale Bible College’s production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. — Aaron Beitzel/RBC

Veteran director of 24 full-length productions, Wolf teaches Introduction to Dramatic Arts and Directing for the Stage. She is a Rosedale alum and began working on campus productions in 2004.

Doing plays at RBC keeps her in touch with her passion.

“When I’m working on a creative project, that’s when I feel close to my Creator,” she said.
She enjoys being part of something bigger than herself. A large part of her work with student casts and crews is helping them realize they’re part of a team.

Even the warm-up exercises they do before rehearsal are designed to help them listen and respond to each other. Wolf keeps them thinking about how to help each other onstage.

She stresses that there are no small roles. Each character has just as much value as the others. This community involves more than the cast.

“The actors are all being propped up by so many people,” she said. She tells her cast, “Make sure to thank your backstage people.”

Dedicated, teachable

Wolf’s experiences in drama run broad and deep. She was attracted to theater as a student at Ohio State University because she wanted to do it all: act, hang out in the shop learning to build flats and prep surfaces, connect with the literature and analyze scripts.

Christa Wolf and daughter Clara clown around on the turntable that Wolf called for in her set design. — Photo by Vicki Sairs/RBC

Christa Wolf and daughter Clara clown around on the turntable that Wolf called for in her set design. — Photo by Vicki Sairs/RBC

In 2013 she received a master’s degree in theater arts from the University of Akron. She has started a children’s theater company, Showcase Children’s Theatre, and also oversees the drama ministry at Mechanicsburg Christian Fellowship. But RBC stands out for her.

“Rosedale has really set itself apart by saying, ‘We place a high value on the arts,’ ” she said.

Citing the college’s vocal groups and touring ministry teams — The Rosedale Chorale, The Salt & Light Co. and Veritas — as well as the school’s Choral Camp, she describes RBC as a place that encourages the performing arts. She thinks highly of Rosedale’s students too.

“They bring in that sense of faithful perseverance, even sacrifice,” she said. They are “punctual, dedicated, not always skilled, but definitely committed.” And they are teachable: “You give me almost any RBC student, whether they’ve acted or not, and we can get what we need.”

Students love working under her direction. Charissa Gingerich, who plays Gwendolen in this spring’s production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, said, “She’s fabulous!”

Gingerich appreciates the way Wolf understands how to “communicate a character through gesture and facial expression and intonation” and then helps her actors develop their characters themselves.

“She asks us what we think our character would do,” Gingerich said. “It’s good for me. It forces me to get inside Gwendolen’s head and understand her.”

Wolf relies on her cast and crew’s willingness to work independently. Stage manager Taylor Herr came up with the idea of having the cast go through an entire class day in character. It was a challenging experiment.

“It’s made me wonder about myself,” Gingerich said. “I’m trying to figure out how my actions in my day-to-day life come across to other people.”

“You start into it, and you really have to keep up with it,” said Karissa Brenneman, who plays Lady Bracknell. “I find myself outside of class using her expressive hand motions . . . really becoming the character.

“She’s slightly taking over my mind,” she added, laughing. “I have friends who’ll help me stop myself after the play!”

Mary Beth Sharp, who plays Cecily Cardew, found living with the character became difficult.

“She gets a little annoying,” Sharp said. By the end of the day-in-character experiment, “I just wanted her to shut up.”

She likes the way Wolf balances clear direction with “letting us feel how we want the character to be. . . . It’s a growing experience to kind of be someone else.”

Summarizing Wolf’s approach, Sharp said, “She’s so great! She’s not going to let anything stand in her way of making it really excellent.”


Comments Policy

Mennonite World Review invites readers’ comments on articles. To promote constructive dialogue, editors select the comments that appear, just as we do with letters to the editor in print. These decisions are final. Writers must sign their first and last names; anonymous comments are not accepted. Comments do not appear until approved and are posted during business hours. Comments may be reproduced in print, and may be edited if selected for print.

About Me

advertisement advertisement