One ordinary woman has an extraordinary encounter with God, and Northwestern’s Drama Ministries Ensemble gets to travel the country sharing that story.
This year, DME is putting on an hour-long play about Arlene Schuiteman, a woman who spent much of her life as a missionary nurse in the South Sudan. Her story is a powerful one and has been turned into a book as well as a play by the group’s director, theatre professor Jeff Barker. Barker met Arlene years ago, and has written many plays about her stories being a missionary in multiple countries.
The first play is called “Sioux Center Sudan,” and that is what DME is performing this year. There are nine students in DME, including stage manager freshman Shonna Ritz.
“I think the play has a good mix of heartbreaking moments and laughter where I just can’t help but chuckle at some of the things,” Ritz said. “It has a wonderful message about an even more wonderful lady.”
Junior Maverick Risley, the only returning DME member, agrees.
“It is a really well-written story and I think it keeps the audience engaged, and triggers a call and response,” Risley said. “I don’t think the best fairy tales could end better than this play does.”
For years DME has alternated between performing biblical stories and telling contemporary stories of God at work. Barker has been very excited to get to do Sioux Center Sudan this year.
“I watched the play 10 times over break and I never got tired of it,” Barker said. “When the character Arlene says, ‘Is this what God meant all along?’ the image still brings tears to my eyes.”
Over spring break, the troup got the opportunity to travel to New York, performing along the way in places like Holland, Michigan; Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania; and Bronx, New York.
“The tour was exhausting and very challenging but unbelievably rewarding,” Risley said. “We have grown as individuals and as a team, and we have become a family. It was a very long string of constantly doing stuff and so it was exhausting, but going through that, it was even more rewarding seeing the impact that the show had on the individuals that came to see it.”
Ritz agrees. “The most exciting part of DME has been the tour and getting to experience a bunch of things you can’t experience in Orange City, like the people, the cities, the food, all of it has been awesome,” Ritz said. “Especially being from Orange City, there is a lot I don’t know about the world, so this has helped me be more culturally aware.”
If anyone did not get the chance to see DME present “Sioux Center Sudan” on campus, there are still a few more opportunities. The group will be performing at a few churches in nearby towns, and they will be traveling to Dubuque Seminary at the beginning of April.
Also, the book “Sioux Center Sudan” can be bought at the theatre office, or on Amazon.