The Rise of the Theatre Club

PLNU Theatre Club’s logo created by Amy Riegel (formerly Bethmann).

Disclaimer: the author of this article was a theatre minor and is part of the Theatre Club.

After a year and a half of planning, the Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) Theatre Club hosted its first meeting on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024.

In the Fall of 2015, the theatre major stopped accepting new students. The Point Loma Opera Theatre (PLOT) club stopped meeting in the Spring of 2022. As of Fall 2023, there were only three students with a declared theatre minor, according to Brent Goodman, the director of Institutional Research at PLNU. 

The theatre minor can be seen on the Point Loma Nazarene University’s Academic Catalog for 2023-2024; however, it is not listed as a program on the website. Since there aren’t any full-time theatre professors or a theatre department, theatre minors work with Melissa Newman, the head of the communications department, to figure out substitutions.

Lily Ponce, a third-year psychology major and Theatre Club president, said, “It all started on Instagram” when second-year organizational communication major Victoria Barajas-Miranda made an Instagram post expressing interest in creating a theatre club on PLNU’s campus. 

Ponce reached out to Barajas-Miranda, and along with former student Amy Riegel (née Bethmann), they worked to start making Theatre Club an official club at PLNU. 

They were part of the Spring 2023 Club Fair to get the word out about the Theatre Club and see how many people would be interested in joining. To their surprise, 40 to 50 people said they were interested in joining. Ponce said, “We were really encouraged.” 

However, things only stayed encouraging for a short time.

The Theatre Club lost its faculty advisor, Wally Williams, as he retired at the end of spring 2023. Since Williams could not act as a faculty advisor, the Theatre Club was put on hiatus and not allowed to meet. 

Barajas-Miranda, who is Theatre Club’s social media and publicity director, ran a bean bag toss at Bobby B’s Birthday Bash in August of 2023. She talked with Jon Manning, faculty in the School of Theology and Christian Ministry and director of the PLNU LEAP Program. Through this conversation, Barajas-Miranda realized that Manning was passionate about keeping theatre on campus alive.

Barajas-Miranda said, “I ended up emailing [Manning about being the faculty advisor] … and he, kind of, said ‘yes’ right out of the jump.” 

Manning’s role as faculty advisor has been crucial to the Theatre Club’s ability to return and start their meetings. However, since Manning has taken over, there have still been some challenges.

For example, Manning said that the club is not allowed to meet in the Solomon Theatre. “The word I got from the department is that there are still classes that are being scheduled in the building, but beyond classes, there are no other meetings or events that should be scheduled in the building.”

The Theatre Club is set to meet at the Fermanian Conference Center for the foreseeable future. 

During the first club meeting, 10 people showed up. There was pizza, club updates and talk about Shortsfest for those in attendance.

Shortsfest is a project that the Theatre Club is working to produce to unite everyone interested in theater, according to Ponce. The Theatre Club comprises not only actors but also writers, directors, crew and anyone interested in being involved with theater. Ponce said, “If you ever watched theater and were inspired to do it, go ahead and do it. Don’t be scared.”

The first meeting also brought those in attendance together through a few improv games. One game was to tell a story one word at a time. Another game had a “parent” telling their “child” a bedtime story while others acted it out. One of the last games played allowed the host to call “New choice” anytime they wanted the actors to have a different reaction to the scene. Everyone was allowed to participate as much or as little as they felt comfortable.

“PLNU Theatre is hoping to bring back improv performances,” said Ponce. “We want to bring laughter and joy to campus.”

Emma Tuttle, a third-year chemistry major, has been involved with theatre on campus for several years. She attended the meeting and said she had a lot of fun with all the improv games.

“Drama is the place where you’re really introverted everywhere else, and then you’re with your people [and you’re not as introverted],” Tuttle said. “No matter what, there is an instant camaraderie [when theater people come together].”

If you are interested in joining the Theatre Club, the best way to stay up-to-date on Theatre Club meetings and announcements is either through the myPLNU app or following @plnutheatre on Instagram. The next meeting will occur on Feb. 22, 2024, at the Fermanian Conference Center from 5 to 6:30 pm.