Oct 22, 2002
Calvin's theater department was once again a multiple winner at the 2002 Grand awards, the annual awards for Grand Rapids community theater.
In fact Calvin actresses won for both best leading actress and best supporting actress, while the all-female cast of the play As It Is In Heaven won a special Grand Award for acting ensemble.
Winning a Grand for best leading actress was May 2002 graduate Jena Cooksey, who played Bernice in Calvin's production of The Piano Lesson. Senior Mandi Hutchins earned a nod for best supporting actress for playing Madame Jourdain in The Bourgeoisie Gentlemen.
Both winners were humbled by their awards.
Said Cooksey: "I feel like I'm cheating somehow by getting an award for having so much fun.” Hutchins spoke of both fun and support in paying tribute to the Calvin Theatre Company, which did The Bourgeoisie Gentlemen and The Piano Lesson. "It," she said, "is by far one of the most loving and supporting communities of which I have ever had the privilege of being a part."
Cooksey's part in The Piano Lesson was her first experience as a member of the Calvin Theatre Company, although she had acted in other on-campus plays. The Piano Lesson was the first CTC play with an all-black cast. "It was an honor to be part of the play," she said. "To win an award . . . I never would have imagined anything like this would happen.”
Both the close connection to her role and the interconnectedness of the cast made The Piano Lesson a particularly special experience for Cooksey. “I really loved every moment with the cast," she says. "It was a healing, stirring and fulfilling time."
Cooksey now teaches
history and gospel choir at Eastern Christian High School in New Jersey.
She says Calvin prepared her well both academically and socially for
teaching, but that her theater work also is a plus. "Drama,"
she says, "teaches presence, projection and energy — all
of which you need in teaching 16 and 17 year-olds!"
Hutchins will graduate this December with a CAS major, concentrating in theater. She dreams of one day being a professional actress, but says: "Ultimately, it's up to God's leading. It depends on what doors he opens and closes for me. But I will always be watching, waiting, and listening for all his cues."
~with reporting by media relations student writer Abe Huyser-Honig