Caroline Cahoon: Acting as a StoryBy Kimberly Atwood on April 26, 2019
For as long as she can remember, Caroline Cahoon (B.A. ’03) has always loved being a part of the arts. But what she loved most about drawing, writing and theatre was not the act itself, but the underlying theme they all shared—the theme of story.
Call to Adventure
Caroline has always been drawn to art. As a kid, she put a lot of her time into drawing, painting, writing and illustrating. And, through her dabbling in these arts, quickly began to realize that it wasn't the drawing or the writing she was attracted to necessarily—it was the story. A painting or a drawing tells a story, as does writing, and it was this love of story that pointed Caroline toward theatre.
When she was a kid, her dad dabbled in some community theatre shows, and Caroline herself participated in church dramas and high school plays. She quickly fell in love with the stories behind the shows and began looking for every opportunity to be involved in the art of storytelling on the stage.
This love of storytelling brought Caroline to Word of Life Bible Institute, where she studied at for two years before coming to Cornerstone. She was first introduced to the organization through Word of Life clubs at church while she was growing up and chose to continue her education by attending their Bible Institute. In her first year at Word of Life Bible Institute, Caroline sang in their choir and participated in their spring Easter Drama, further developing her love for theatre and the arts.
The second year she participated in a musical that toured through surrounding states, an experience that she looks back upon fondly. "It was an amazing experience and I am so glad that I did it. The people that I did [the musical] with I was able to get really close to. If I saw some of them now, 20 years later, it would be like nothing had changed."
In deciding what college to transfer to after Word of Life, Cornerstone was not Caroline's top choice. She was looking mainly for a school that would accept her Bible credits, and Cornerstone was one of those schools. Even though she had friends of the family at Cornerstone and scholarships awaiting her, Caroline was reluctant at first. She'd be coming to a new place where she'd be separated from her support group, leaving behind her friends. But her parents wouldn't let her quit, and soon enough, an opportunity came knocking.
Caroline was in the process of trying to decide what to study at Cornerstone—music or theatre—and was beginning to lean more toward theatre. A classmate of Caroline's encouraged her to audition for one of Cornerstone's theatre productions, and Caroline was invited to read through the script with the classmate and her friends. This opened up a new opportunity for her. Instead of being cast in the show, she was actually recruited by the theatre adviser, Jennifer Hunter, to help with the show choreography and behind the scenes.
Not long after, Caroline helped Jennifer start up a student theatre group, which soon became a group of her good friends. "The theatre students brought me into their fold and made me feel really welcome at Cornerstone," she reflected. "Theatre is really where I started to get more comfortable in my own skin."
Once she found a group of friends, suddenly Cornerstone didn't seem so daunting. In her three years at Cornerstone, she served both on stage and behind the scenes, as director, and even as representative for the student theatre group. No matter what it was, if it involved theatre and storytelling, Caroline was always looking to be involved.
The Saga Continues
Not long after Caroline's graduation in May of 2003, she started her work in the Cornerstone Marketing & Communications Office as a graphic designer and was later promoted to art director.
Not long after Caroline graduated, Cornerstone revised the theatre program and found themselves in need of a new theatre adviser. Because of Caroline's involvement with the school and with theatre, Jennifer recommended her for the position, and soon enough, Caroline stepped up as the theatre adviser at Cornerstone University, which is a role that she still holds today.
Through this role, Caroline has been able to help Cornerstone tell all different kinds of stories through theatre, including the experimental show "Romeo and Juliet: the Remix," showing in the Corum Student Union on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 at 7 p.m. This show is a non-traditional retelling of the classic Shakespeare play "Romeo and Juliet," full of modern twists and shifting actors for certain roles. The show features a panel of directors, including Cornerstone alumni Audrey Wierenga (B.A. ’18), Eli Anderson (B.A. ’18), Steven (Buddy) Haskill (B.A. ’05) and Kristen Roberts (B.A. ’95).
This smaller storytelling opportunity gives slightly busier students the opportunity to get involved with theatre at Cornerstone, regardless of their major or background, which Caroline was intentionally striving for.
"Theatre is a great opportunity for any student on campus to hone leadership skills, communication skills and team skills," she said.
Even if a student isn't interested in acting, there are so many other ways to get involved in a production, such as building sets, designing costumes, handing out playbills or shoveling the Michigan snow in the middle of a fall semester performance. These are skills that can develop through involvement in theatre that are useful in any field one pursues.
Caroline isn't quite sure what the future holds, but she plans to continue to communicate truths through story, as Jesus had done. "We hope to choose stories to tell here at Cornerstone that allow our audiences and students to gain new insight into how they can relate to the world."
Stories are often how we understand the world and how we communicate our faith to those around us. What story are you telling?