May 29, 2024

‘As I Am’ Examines Christian Identity

Bryn Wicklas '21 - Staff Reporter

Photo courtesy of Gordon College Fine Arts

Welcome to Nouwen College. Please refer to the sticker color on your packet to see with which group you’ll be traveling through orientation. Quick off you go, Nouwen Saints! Divide into your orientation groups.

The play “As I Am” was created as a collaborative work between Christy Gardner, Nik Zaleski, and Gordon College students. The play’s fictional Nouwen College was founded in 1899 as a Midwest Christian College dedicated to liberal arts education. Audience members are treated as member of orientation and they become an integral aspect of the play itself. 

The cast are orientation leader who guide their groups, made up of audience members, through their Nouwen experience. Each spectator is given an orientation packet that provides them with three different sets of possible perspectives. At certain breakpoints throughout “As I Am,” the orientation leaders ask their groups place themselves in the shoes of the perspective they’ve been given and ask questions based upon the plot of the play. 

“As I Am” functions as a conversation starter between the audience and the cast on the LGBTQ community at Christian institutions. The play’s plot is eerily similar to Gordon College—to the point where no one could deny its source of inspiration. The plot of the play hinges upon the reactions LGBTQ plus students face as they grapple with their identity. The play showcases various points of view through its characters and provides insight into the motivations of harmful actions. 

The play holds numerous moments of immense, and possibly triggering, pain. Its characters at time cry out to God in a manner reminiscent of dark moments. Nouwen College is not Gordon College. However, there are startling parallels between the two institutions. The audience is inducted into a discussion on how to best support LGBTQ students and is left questioning whether it’s being done at all. 

The play closes with a scene depicting a fragmented community. The Nouwen Saints find a way to turn a violent dialogue of warring viewpoints into a conversation about safe spaces and faith. The play is meant to spark conversation and thought in its audience. It is painful to sit through because it portrays a narrative every spectator has seen and perhaps felt at a very personal level. 

“As I Am” will continue touring around CCU schools. It will continue to start conversation on Christian Liberal Art campuses. Hopefully, it will lead spectators closer to a place of healing and genuine, yet safe, dialogue with LGBTQ members of Christian communities.

Let’s go Saints!

Let’s go marching in!

Let’s do our best to serve and to bless,

To walk in God’s footsteps!

Let’s go Saints!

Let’s go marching in!

And they’ll know we are saints 

By our excellence and grace!

Let’s go Saints!

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