Wheaton College is evolving. Evolution can be marked by a significant change or growth, neither of which come very easily. Both, however, were evident in the latest iteration of Wheaton Words, titled “(En)Compass”. Director Milana Meytes ’15 and her hard-working staff were tasked with building upon a legacy and these efforts resulted in a resounding success. At its core, the show has always been about the sexual, personal identities and accompanying crisis of Wheaton students, staff and faculty. These were stories that could spurn hope, curiosity and solidarity within the community. The intimacy and vulnerability of these pieces has typically been mirrored by the backdrop as seen in the previous settings of the Beard and Weil Galleries and the Kresge Experimental Theatre, both located in Watson. However, this year’s production exploded onto a new, larger venue: Cole Chapel.
The size and grandeur of the chapel symbolized the next step of Wheaton Words as an increasingly powerful and inclusive series of performances. Sure, the so-called sanctity of the space may have been somewhat tainted by Shahd Fahoum’s ’18 discussion of Nazareth or Sarah Creese’s ’16 call for the sexually repressed to finally (and literally) go fuck themselves. Yet the unbridled passion behind these words wove a new gospel – one wholly unique to Wheaton. The former sets were compact and undeniably confined, perhaps indicative of the dark and somber tone of the majority of pieces performed. While the stories performed in “(En)Compass” were not to be taken lightly, the overall tone of the show was certainly lighter. The nondenominational sanctuary of Cole Chapel proved a worthy destination for every man and woman on stage to celebrate all of their confessions or criticisms from the pews to the balconies. In spite of any discomfort caused by the spot-on millennial satire performed by Schuyler Evans ’15, Sarah Balun ’15, Alfonso François ’15 and Rafael Galarza ’15 or the unease which followed Samuel Hammond’s ’15 admission of manorexia, these were tales tasked with bringing us all together.
This cast, like those before it, was clearly a family in the wake of this experience. Thanks to a creative direction and a new frontier, they also happened to be the most energetic and inviting Wheaton Words family I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing. Each year, this show has left me surprised. My best friend and partner Blair helped to create Wheaton Words over two years ago, and it has been a delight to be driven to tears of both joy and sadness by this work. They say the only constant is change, so I’d encourage every member of this community to embrace the undeniable change Wheaton Words will continue to usher in. Wheaton is evolving and events like these inspire us all to try and evolve with it.