“He Gave Me Courage”

Richard Paige — It was originally intended to be more dramatic. A change of direction just a week before curtain left the Gentlemen Callers back at square one. At least they had a title.

“Check Your F*#!ing Email!”

What came to life in a mere four days was something far more humorous. A smart, self-aware, and hilarious comedy about the unintended consequences of technology loosely based on collegiate experiences was the result for IndyFringe festival audiences.

“It was tons of fun,” said director Patrick Kvachkoff ’15. “I loved working with the guys. My job was to get them to create stuff and that was easy. They love creating.”

The Gentlemen Callers (l to r): Austin Yeomans ’20, Luke Wallace ’21, Ahmaud Hill ’21, Austin Ridley ’20, Quinn Cavin ’19, Chris Diaz ’19, Ra’Shawn Jones ’20, Louis Sinn ’19, and director Patrick Kvachkoff ’15.

The creativity might best have been referenced in a skit featuring wrestler Chris Diaz ’19 that centered around Vanessa Carlton’s bouncy 2002 hit “A Thousand Miles.”

The skit depended upon a carefree tune, and Diaz originally picked a song that he knew the lyrics to, but the group decided that audiences wouldn’t understand the song or the reference. So he picked one that everyone knew…”a friendly song,” says Diaz.

“The funny thing was I didn’t know the lyrics,” Diaz chuckled. “I knew the melody, so I kept humming it and soon it was, like, ‘hey, I’m singing.’”

For Kvachkoff, an actor carving out his niche in Chicago, such creative focus was the most rewarding part of assisting with the project.

“We cycled through different ideas for the show and seeing somebody realize they had a good and funny idea – that moment where they come into their own – in putting the show up is pretty cool.”

Through the Callers’ run at IndyFringe, Diaz admitted to nerves, especially in the first few shows, but credits Kvachkoff with helping him work through that.

He helped me to be more social with the audience and who I’m interacting with,” Diaz said. “He gave me courage.”

A member of the first Wabash Gentlemen Callers troupe that first performed at IndyFringe in 2014, Kvachkoff said his job in this incarnation was simply facilitation…to make sure it happened. It was about editing and helping them put on the best and most stageable show they could.

And it made the commute from Chicago worthwhile.

“To be able to meet a fun group who really came together – they love hanging out with each other makes it easy for me,” he said. “I like doing this, I like acting, whatever the specific show needs of me, I’m there.”

Welcoming More | Wabash Men

Welcoming new international students to campus.

Brady Gossett ’19 — Director of International Programs Amy Weir welcomed a new group of international students to campus Monday, tending to all the little details to ensure their transitions was smooth.

Any travel is draining enough, but many of these students are coming off long flights across several time zones.

“Maybe they don’t want to sleep right away,” said Weir, but just in case, she has beds ready made by the time they arrive. “Your first night on a new campus really determines what your overall experience in college is like.”

Weir’s focus then becomes getting the students acclimated to life in the US and life at Wabash. Along with the time difference, there are a lot of other cultural differences that affect new international students.

Weir works tirelessly orienting students to Wabash prior to the beginning of classes. Activities include meeting with various faculty and staff, campus scavenger hunts, discussing immigration rules, and lots of icebreakers.

In one particular ice breaker, Never Have I Ever, students shared experiences with each other in a race to find an open chair.

“Never have I ever had a pet cat.”

“Never have I ever owned a gaming console.”

Lots of laughing, joking around, and jockeying for seats. I finished up taking photos and joined the game. After the first couple “Never Have I Ever’s”, I think they noticed I hadn’t moved from my seat.

“Never have I ever been a US Citizen.”

More laughter as the student mentors and I scrambled to grab a seat. That was a good one, I thought.

They’ll fit in just fine here at Wabash.

Out of the Page and onto the Stage

Richard Paige — The text came out of nowhere on a random January day.

“Let’s see if we can get this show on its legs.”

The show in question was “I, Nephi: A Gay Mormon’s Survival Guide,” a one-man play that tells the true story of a man reconciling the world of his family with the culture of his sexuality.

Originally conceived and written by Joe Mount ’15 for his senior capstone project, I, Nephi, had only seen the light of day as a staged reading in the Spring of 2015. And if Mount had his way, that’s where things would have stayed…until that message was received nearly two years later.

Joe Mount ’15 during his IndyFringe staging of “I, Nephi.”

“After the staged reading, I was terrified,” Mount says. “Rory asked if we could put it on, if he could produce it. Since that moment, it has been incredibly rewarding, slightly terrifying, an incredibly positive experience.”

Rory Willats ’17 was just the guy to make it happen. He and Joe had been friends largely from the time Rory arrived on campus and collaborated on a number of Wabash productions and developed a deep well of trust with each other.

“The only expectation I had was to do whatever Joe needed to help get this show on its feet,” Rory says. “It was just about telling Joe’s story and not getting in the way of it. I was a brain for Joe to bounce staging ideas off.”

Joe claims that level of trust was vital to bringing his thoughts to life. He says Rory knew well of the backstory, of Joe’s struggles with his family, and his hesitancy to take the play further.

“Rory was key in getting me to think about how the show would look and supporting what I was trying to say with what I was doing,” Joe says. “The collaboration really took off and we were able to bring this play out of the page and onto the stage.”

Such descriptors don’t surprise Wabash Theater Department Chair Jim Cherry. Trust is foundational to good theater.

“When you go out on stage, you have to trust the person across from you is prepared, trained, rehearsed, focused, fearless, and completely engaged in the work at hand,” he says. “That’s an expectation we have as a Department, and it’s reflected in the work of graduates like Joe and Rory.”

Even in the middle of a successful six-night run at the Phoenix Theater during the 2017 IndyFringe Festival, Joe still felt those pangs of terror in that the show was staged at the festival and not the more familiar confines of the Wabash Theater.

“When Rory asked me to do it, I sat with the idea for a little bit and eventually saw no reason not to,” Joe says. “I knew this was someone I could trust. Someone who wasn’t going to violate the story of the experience. I only needed to trust him to keep me calm throughout the process.”

What Joe needed was someone to help him work through the emotional moments, the parts of the story he still struggles with, to objectively move the play forward.

Rory Willats ’17 in the Phoenix Theater control booth.

“I needed somebody slightly separated, not as invested, that could say, ‘Well this is what you are feeling and this is what you want to get across, so this is the way to do it,’ or, ‘What you’re doing right now is not going to be as effective,’” he says.

From that initial text, the two started piecing things together in June. Three weeks of rehearsals led into opening night.

“To do work at IndyFringe is to catapult the work outside of this safe space,” Cherry says. “Audiences of total strangers, limited budgets and technical capabilities, unconventional spaces, limited time and support. This is the theater that performers make when they leave college. It’s a great part of their education to mount work at IndyFringe.”

Rory reflected on how the theater connects people in ways where heartfelt stories are the result.

“Theater is built upon what happens when you put two people in a room,” Rory says. “Our rehearsal process – sharing the story and stretching that a little bit – was flexing our muscle. It goes back to the heart of theater, storytelling and creating a relationship with a room full of people. I don’t know if I could have done this if I didn’t have my Wabash experience, and my Wabash experience with Joe.”

Joe thought living and writing the story were enough. Thanks to his friend and collaborator, he got much more in return.

“Rory is the only reason it became active,” he says. “It always helped to have Rory to be there to say, ‘This is good, but this is not what you’re trying to do.’ It was an incredibly powerful experience.”

WLAIP Gives Everyone Time to Reflect, Including Professors

Former Visiting Assistant Professor of English Andrew Klein – This year’s Wabash Liberal Arts Immersion Program has come to a close, and I’m humbled by the dedication and enthusiasm with which these 23 young men have met the challenges of the past month.

The program left a particularly strong impression on me this year as it was both the first time I’ve worked with students in the program and the last time I will teach here at Wabash.

Former Visiting Assistant Professor of English Andrew Klein

Former Visiting Assistant Professor of English Andrew Klein

I’m told students tend to approach this program with trepidation and, in some cases, outright resistance to the idea of losing their last summer at home with friends and family. So, it was gratifying to hear so many them write of the reversal of those sentiments over the course of the month upon discovering deep friendships, confident mentors, and a wellspring of intellect and academic potential within themselves. I was proud to hear my students, who only a month earlier had been dancing at their high school prom, embracing the critical self-awareness needed for them to seize their college education and to get the most out of the next four years.

Dr. Crystal Benedicks and I were responsible for the English 101 course. From July 1 to July 26, we guided our students through spirited discussion and an intensive reading and writing schedule. We asked our students to assess honestly their prior relationship with reading and writing, to examine critically the educational models they had known since kindergarten, and to explore their own personal credo or guiding question as they moved forward into a new semester and a new life.

This process of meditating on their past, present, and future gave these students what so many of us need but fail to find before committing to our next Big Thing: time to reflect.

Hearing the students encapsulate this reflective process in their final audio essays taught me the value of encouraging students to locate themselves within their studies. They described how this experience had taught them that their success going forward would hinge not on departure from their past – a past often painted with the vivid colors of their home and family life – but on embracing and uniting their new ventures with their old traditions.

Listening to these students’ final words, recorded just a day before the program ended, I was struck by how quickly their morphed into certainty. That, here at Wabash, they will take control of their lives and achieve their dreams. One student spoke of his eagerness to develop freely his ideas in dialogue with caring teachers. Another wrote of how he could pursue his education without the shame he’d felt initially about expressing himself and his ideas. All of the students found some reason to be hopeful and confident where before they had been skeptical and unsure.

If we are able to move students to feel this way before their first semester has even begun, then I consider what we’ve all accomplished this summer a job well done.

And I do mean “all” — the WLAIP works well not only thanks to the enthusiasm of its professors and students to work together but also to the guidance of others. Dr. Robert Horton, Dr. Zachery Koppelman, and other faculty were a constant, supportive presence, and together we created a productive environment that was intense for the students but not overwhelming. However, it was the student mentors and writing tutors who were exceptionally vital to this course. I saw not only our new students improve and grow, but I saw more senior students rise to the occasion and readily adopt roles of leadership and mentorship.

I left the course changed myself —invigorated by what I had learned from these students and how we as instructors can offer guidance, newly aware of how important a student’s background can be to how we approach our courses, and, what’s more, looking forward to how I might take this experience and pay it forward at my next position at a liberal arts college in Canada.

2018 WLAIP participants

2018 WLAIP participants

WLAIP is a powerful reminder of the effectiveness of the intensive, student-centered education for which Wabash is best known. And those who come through it ought to be particularly proud of their achievement.

So congratulations to Cristian, Luis, Jorge, Clarke, Emiliano, Jayden, Davionne, Ali, Johnny, Sammy, Jose, Marco, Gianni, Jonathan, Eddie, Gerald, Chris, Mike, Jesus, Walter, Leo, Elijah, and Eli. You have much to be proud of this summer, and Wabash gains so much by having you here. Congrats as well to Anthony, Leon, Ra’Shawn, Corey, John, and Kike — mentors and tutors whom Wabash is also lucky to have.

Here’s to next year’s WLAIP!