“Pilgrim’s Progress,” the unforgettable allegory of one man’s spiritual journey, has been translated into more than 100 languages since John Bunyan first penned it in 1676.
This year, staff and students at Corban College translated it into one more “language” – the visual-auditory mix that is live theater – and took it to audiences in Australia. Their two-week drama tour was Corban’s first overseas production.
The retelling of “Pilgrim’s Progress,” with its literary reputation and salvation message, was a natural pick for the drama department’s first international appearance, said director Tamara McGinnis.
“It seemed like the perfect fit for doing theater that would be entertaining, but, at the same time, having a message that would include the gospel,” she said.
The impetus behind the drama team’s trip to Australia came from 1985 alumnus Matt Douglas, who is a missionary in Sydney with his wife, Barb, and their two children.
Two years after he asked Corban to consider sending a drama team to reach non-churchgoers, McGinnis arrived in Australia’s capital with 12 drama students, one adjunct instructor and her family. They’d prepared “Pilgrim,” adapted by playwright Tom Key, and carefully perfected it for travel.
“We went with no sets, and that was delightful,” McGinnis said. “It took a lot of creativity. We used the people to create basic backdrops. They were all in black. They formed a gate, or a door or, one time, they become the Slough of Despair. They did a wonderful job.”
The student actors gave four evening performances of “Pilgrim” at a rented hall. They also presented pieces of it to middle and high school students. When they weren’t performing, they volunteered at Glorious Hope Baptist Church and in local public schools.
“We went to Australia, saying, ‘God, use the play how you want to use it,’” McGinnis said. “When you stir a spark, it has ongoing results.”
In addition to the McGinnis family, the drama team consisted of adjunct Chuck Lucas and students Thomas Berney, Heather Gossien, Adam Karnes, Rachel Kriens, Rachel Ost, Heather Rossi, Zachary Westbrook, Jacob Bullock, Joel Hergert, Scott Kersey, Keilani Radcliffe and Juliet Sena.
The trip to Australia was funded by one pre-trip production, a garage sale, the students themselves and donations.
“We are appreciative of the people who allowed us to be able to go; they believed in the efficacy of what we were doing – taking a theatrical production as a mission work. We are in their debt,” McGinnis said.