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Oct 22, 2002

Grand Awards


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, who was also a member of the As It Is In Heaven cast, had been in numerous productions at Pensacola Christian College prior to transferring to Calvin. She says she enjoys the way that acting helps her learn about different cultures, languages, people and institutions, as well as herself. She currently Hutchins is a part of CTC’s upcoming production of A Doll House, and is a member of Calvin’s Invention Team, an improvisational storytelling group. She’s also directing a play for Calvin’s Lab Theater and is compiling a costume history database for the Hekman Digital Archive.

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

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Contact Phil de Haan
616-957-6475 (v)
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