Emily Bosscher '00
Since graduating from Calvin in 2000, I’ve found myself gradually steering away from my major and heading more toward my minor. After a year teaching in Ft. Lauderdale, I made my way to Illiana Christian High School in Lansing, Illinois. Hired originally for English, I’ve managed to weasel my way into the position as (unofficial) head of the drama department in the past seven years. I now teach a one-semester drama class and direct two plays a year. Living so close to Chicago, I try to attend as many productions in the city as I can on my own, but I also bring groups of students to productions when I can in order to introduce them to professional theatre. (I am thrilled to be seeing my Calvin classmates on the stage now in Chicago!) In the perfect world, I would love to devote most of my time to the drama and less to the English, but unfortunately it is the English teaching that actually pays the bills right now!
My goals at Illiana have been to develop this program into one that is more professional and which prepares my students for theatre after high school. Although we perform in the school’s gym (thus squeezing in between sports seasons and only having about two weeks with a stage), I work very hard at creating productions that are better than what I often see as “typical” high school drama. That means I’m usually acting as costume designer, props mistress, choreographer, director, light and sound booth operator, dramaturg, and publicity director all in one show! I do work with (on average) three other teachers who do an amazing job making the productions a success – particularly our art teacher who designs the most fantastic sets! Despite space and time and money issues, I work very hard to keep at least 20 students in each cast, and we often have over 100 students working on the play in various capacities.
I am truly grateful to have been a part of a Christian theatre program in college and to now teach what Christian theatre really is. I live in a community that still struggles with the idea of Christians in theatre and some students in our school are not allowed to participate in the theatre department due to church teachings. I am so thankful that Calvin prepared me with an answer and understanding about how theatre can be truly Christian. I am finding that I spend a lot of time explaining to my students how the work they are doing is bringing glory to God and exposing to light the challenges we face as Christians on this earth. I’ve found that over the years I’ve become bolder in my answers when challenged about the pieces I’ve chosen to direct here, and have been able to give reasons for why a “sin” or other dark element belongs on a stage in a Christian high school. After facing headaches and negative reactions because of our choices such as Oklahoma, Flowers for Algernon, The Visit, and Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (but not, surprisingly, for Les Miserables) for various content reasons, I have learned that my passion for theatre is not just in the directing and working with kids, but in educating my audiences about this vehicle to teach (as Norman Jones describes it) about the incarnation of Christ through our incarnations on stage.
One of the greatest blessings I have found is in watching my students develop as actors and as Christians as they travel through their years in our drama program. I’ve been working with some students since they were in fifth grade and coming to my summer drama camps; now they are getting ready to graduate from high school and are looking into Calvin’s theatre program for their own training! It truly humbles me when I hear from students that their time in Illiana’s drama program made such an impact on their lives—humbling because I say the same thing when I gush to the kids about Doc Freeberg and Stephanie Sandberg and James Korf and David Leugs and all the amazing things they taught me at Calvin. They are very familiar with my stories about the importance of exercise and physical training (from my fond memories of aerobics during Ghost Sonata or James Korf leaving an actress dead on stage from the moment the house opened in The Physicists) and the way a cast can become a family (from our sleep-over days during Ghost Sonata at Doc’s house). I hope and pray that the students I teach now can also have such wonderful memories from drama to carry with them through life!
Advice for current theatre students
I believe that the community created by theatre truly exemplifies the Body of Christ. Since we were made to live in community but we aren’t all given families who live close, or husbands, or children, theatre can provide that community for us. I have found one of the best communities in the world in directing high school theatre – they are enthusiastic, encouraging, and truly a family to this single gal! Finding a niche through some form of theatre can help us stay connected and part of a great community.