Friday, August 12, 2005

Theater students gather women’s stories through Maple Scholars project and create theatrical production


GOSHEN, Ind. – For three Goshen College students, finishing one another’s sentences is just one result of spending a summer in collaboration. Cassie Greer (Jr., South Bend, Ind.), Nicole Miazgowicz (Sr., Temperance, Mich.) and Lindsay Nance (Jr., Winnipeg, Manitoba) spent nearly three months gathering stories from women of various cultures and walks of life to create a three-woman theatrical production as part of Goshen College’s Maple Scholars program. All three are theater majors, and Greer is pursuing a double major in history as well.

“We [want] to get across that everyone has a story to tell, no matter the subject matter or how old they are,” said Miazgowicz. “We interviewed people of all different class, racial and ethnic backgrounds … showing that everyone can have a voice, no matter who they are.”

Said Nance, “We found that being asked to tell their stories is a really empowering thing for the women we spoke with.”

Providing the time and support for their project, the Maple Scholars program is an eight-week summer research opportunity for students to work side-by-side with Goshen College professors. Maples Scholars has traditionally consisted of projects in the areas of sciences, such as biology, chemistry and physics, but as the first theater project, the group is helping to expand the cross-disciplinary focus that the program is trying to achieve.

Doug Liechty Caskey, professor of theater and communication, is acting as the group’s faculty adviser. “The Maple Scholars program is enabling these three students to work at cutting edge theater, while still being supported in the context of their own theater education,” said Caskey. “I think all three of these young scholars realize that they have a truly unique opportunity that might never be duplicated in their future theater endeavors.”

Because of the funding through the program, we could devote our entire energies to the project,” said Greer.

During [the] school [year] we always find we get frustrated because we can’t devote our time completely to any one thing – our energy always needs to be split between work and classes and theater and anything else we do,” added Miazgowicz.

The idea for the project came out of the three students’ involvement in “Torba,” the mainstage play at Goshen College in the spring of 2004, which was based on stories the playwright heard and put into a piece containing small scenes of the different stories. The students had already decided that they wanted to do a show together, particularly their senior recital, and the idea grew from their experiences with this unique style of theater and their individual experiences.

While the Maple Scholars program began in June, the trio began meeting together at the end of May to share their life stories, develop questions and brainstorm about who to interview and how to eventually present their findings.

Upon completion, the project will include interviews from 13 women from various walks of life, ranging from age 10 through 82 years old, including several homeless women and women from places such as China, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast and Switzerland.

For each interview, the students tape-recorded and then transcribed the woman’s narrative. To develop the scene for each story, the students would decide on a format, whether it be a dialogue, monologue, dance or interpretive movement, and then each came up with their own version.

The trio then worked together to determine which presentation would best suit the particular scene, using one or a combination of their ideas. “It was kind of painful, because you get attached to your own ideas, but sometimes you need to let your idea go,” said Nance. “The end result is always better anyways.”

Said Greer, “We work really well together. We had to learn how to transfer passion from our individual ideas to the group idea. For us, artistic differences had to be a myth.”

Interviewing a diverse cross-section of women afforded each of the students experiences that opened their eyes in different ways. “All of the women we interviewed were very different, but I found that I could identify with each one in some way,” said Greer.

Our base human emotions are the same,” added Nance. “Even though we may have different backgrounds, the feelings we know and experience are the same. I found that we are more similar than different.”

“Individually and collectively they are a wonderful testament to the fact that creative group work is possible without egos getting in the ways as it often does in the professional world of theater,” said Caskey. “Each of the three has contributed important ideas to the research process and to the upcoming performance as it continues to evolve, and they’ve done this with a great deal of care and concern for each other and for the women they’re interviewed. I’m confident that the women whose narratives serve as the focus of this research project would be honored by the outcome.”

According to Miazgowicz, one of the most memorable interviews was with a 74-year-old who suffered throughout her life from severe allergies. Despite this terrible illness, the students found her to be lively and joyful about her life. “She told us about how she didn’t really find out about herself during her younger years,” said Miazgowicz. “She didn’t become comfortable with who she was until she was 60 years old. I realized that it can still happen when you’re older.”

Greer, Miazgowicz and Nance will perform their finished project in the Umble Center at Goshen College at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10 in a free event. They will also perform at New World Center, a small theater in Goshen, on Sept. 16, 17 and 18.

- Jennifer Rupp


Editors: For more information about this release, to arrange an interview or request a photo, contact Goshen College News Bureau Director Jodi H. Beyeler at (574) 535-7572 or




Goshen College, established in 1894, is a four-year residential Christian liberal arts college rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. The college’s Christ-centered core values – passionate learning, global citizenship, compassionate peacemaking and servant-leadership – prepare students as leaders for the church and world. Recognized for its unique Study-Service Term program, Goshen has earned citations of excellence in Barron’s Best Buys in Education, “Colleges of Distinction,” “Making a Difference College Guide” and U.S.News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” edition, which named Goshen a “least debt college.” Visit



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