Here For Heartland, Anticipating Defender Days

Every autumn, Dordt hosts the Heartland Teacher’s Conference. For nearby grade school teachers, university professors, and education majors, this means a weekend full of conversation about what it means to teach Christianly.

For most of us, though, this means two days of cancelled classes and a much-anticipated, much-cherished long weekend.

Typically, students use their Heartland break to either go home (and bring college friends/roommates along to experience the places that have shaped them) or go on a grand adventure. Lots of students go camping somewhere nearby or make the 8 hour drive to Chicago for some time in the big city. Some even drive north to Canada for an international experience. In the past, I’ve spent the weekend in Omaha with my cousins and gone to Oskaloosa (near Pella) with my boyfriend to meet his family.

But, because I’m currently assistant stage managing Dordt’s main stage theatre production, I stayed on campus this Heartland for a weekend of rehearsals. I anticipated a long weekend on an essentially abandoned campus to prove boring, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Most of the weekend was spent backstage in the Te Paske theatre, going over cues and running the show, but because we had Friday afternoon off from rehearsals, a few of us theatre nerds made the trek to Sioux Falls for frozen yogurt and SkyZone, a building with trampolines instead of floors. It’s okay for twenty year olds to bounce around with twelve year olds, right? And it’s okay for those twenty year olds be dominated by those twelve year olds in trampoline dodge ball with only a little bit of shame, right?

After an hour of intense calorie burning, most of us theatre students headed back to campus. My long-time roommate and top-notch best friend Ellen wanted to go shopping, though. I wasn’t difficult to persuade, and before we knew it, a little shopping turned into a lot of shopping. In other words, the sun was barely peeking over the horizon when we finally merged onto I-29 and began what should have been an hour drive back to Sioux Center.

But it took us a lot longer than an hour.

While we were nearby cities, we were all right. When we got out into Iowa cornfields – where there aren’t any streetlights, only headlights to guide the way – our memories started to get a little fuzzy.

“Wait, Ellen, where do we turn off? How far do we go on this road?”

“Annie, are you sure we passed that farm on the way here?”

“Um, no. I don’t think we did.”

“Can I use the GPS on your phone to get us pointed in the right direction?”

“Sure! That’s a great idea.”

“Um, your phone is dead.”

“Well shoot.”

“Just keep driving until we reach civilization?”


Two hours later – after passing through some random South Dakota towns, finding a map, reading it upside down, heading the wrong way, being too afraid to ask random street-hanging teenagers which way to go, multiple exclamations of “WE ARE NEVER GOING TO MAKE IT. THIS IS THE END,” driving on some roads that were evidently closed to thru traffic, finding all sorts of obscure dirt roads, and a miraculous phone powering-up because our Lord works all things for the good of those who love Him – Ellen and I finally pulled into the parking lot outside our apartment. And once we were safe, all we could do was laugh.

They say that a lot of learning in college happens outside the classroom. For Ellen and me, some of that learning happened in the literal middle of nowhere in the literal middle of the night.

But even if Ellen and I hadn’t gotten lost and, in turn, laughed ourselves through the long weekend, it would have been a weekend well spent on campus because we were doing good work, creating a performance that will uplift audience members through giggles.

And so, I’ll conclude with a shameless plug for the show:

If you’re going to be in the area for Defender Days or if you just live in the area, come see our production of MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING this weekend and/or next. We’ve been working on this Shakespeare piece in a really unique context, namely 1950’s Hawaii, and it’s sure to be a joy for everyone in attendance – I’ve seen the show a hundred times, and I still laugh every single time!

 -- Annie

P.S. Ellen took all these backstage photos. Enjoy your glimpse into the side of the show you won’t get to see!