Melinda Berry '02
With Theatre as my major, and Third World Development and Missions as my minor, I never was your average Theatre grad from Calvin College. After a semester experiencing and studying poverty in Honduras, I received my diploma in 2002 and was hit with both the culture and graduation shock of my life: what do I do now?
I became an Officer on a Cruise Steamboat on the Mississippi River and learned the history and hospitality of ‘the old South’. I explored my heritage in the Netherlands and saw the bakery oven my grandparents helped hide Jews behind during World War II. I started anew and moved cross-country to Portland, Oregon, well-known for its progressive personality and thriving arts scene.
Today, although I’ve done some wandering in my career path, I am Sales and Marketing Assistant at Portland’s Historic Luxury pride, the Benson Hotel. With our boast as ‘the Residence of Presidents’, we proudly housed Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the recent Democratic race in Oregon. Movie stars, political VIPs, and NBA sports teams are frequent visitors in our hallways, and even the casual guest experiences the attentive service to which the Benson Hotel is known. The hospitality world may seem an unusual place for a Theatre Graduate, but my experience in creative, last-minute performance ensures that any unexpected demands by my guests are attended to quickly and confidently. And I think my coworkers enjoy my sing-songy attitude to meeting and connecting with our guests from all over the world!
As the Calvin Theatre Company celebrates 75 years, a significant memory to me revolved around an interpretative book of the Bible’s Song of Solomon called “The Greatest Song”, translated by Calvin Seerveld. This text had met some criticism in its suggestion that the intense, descriptive love songs in the Song of Solomon were not, in fact, directed to the infamous King, but to a another man, presumptively forbidden to love this woman now committed to the King’s court.
I had not even been slated to perform the interpretation, presented by CTC’s Wandering Thespians, but a snowbound performer forced Professor Bob Hubbard to ask my assistance. With just a one-hour rehearsal, I joined the team performing to a full audience in Calvin’s Chapel! All performance notes aside, I was pleased and touched by the interaction afterwards, when Calvin Seerveld met with the Wandering Thespians and talked about how he had developed his interpretation. I was proud and privileged in not only meeting the author, but to have opportunity to read, interpret, and perform a work that challenged current Biblical interpretation in such a powerful manner.
To me, that was what made the Calvin Theatre Company a leader in both theatrical production and in development of the Christian Faith. The challenges, community, and edgy source material ensured that all CTC participants were geared with the confidence to ‘burst the bubble’ and explore the surrounding world.
My advice to future CTC members: Anyone doubting how to fit theatre into your schedule, I say “run with it!” I squeezed CTC events in-between class, work, GPAs, more work, and socializing. It was my favorite activity, the one that joined me to a community that supported me every step of the way. I don’t have ‘theatre’ anywhere in my current work title, but I assure you I would not be where I am today had it not been for the experiences and growth CTC enabled me to have.