Week Fourteen: Grace College, Indiana
By Kaffe Keating
“Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realising it!”
– Hebrews, 13:2 NLT (Printed on a small piece of card which was given to me after being read out at the end of one of my classes.)
Our final week in Indiana, and the penultimate week of the tour is upon us. We’re at Grace College, an evangelical Christian college near the town of Warsaw, a place assumedly settled by some Polish people at some point in history. We’ve actually completed a long and elaborate loop on our journey, as we’re now only a forty-five minute drive from South Bend and our home base of the University of Notre Dame.
I’ve taken to not wearing my Notre Dame jumper out in public. Not out of shame, you understand, but out of personal safety. On a flight a couple of weeks ago, we had a crew who struck up a particularly boisterous relationship with the passengers, a member of which stopped at our row when making sure we all had our seatbelts done up.
“Now, can we make sure that someone has been assigned to help the Penn State guy with his oxygen mask?” he grins down at us. “And remember to fit your own mask first before you help him out.”
The guy on the other side of the aisle in the Penn State hoody is half smiling, just riding this
particular part of his day out until it’s over. I grin too, I have no idea what the joke is as the
intricacies of college football rivalries are lost on me, but these are the people in charge of giving out the pretzels and free wine.
“Now, of course I’d say the same thing about the Notre Dame guy,” he says, pointing at me in my comfy, anti-air-con jumper, my grin now becoming more nervous, “but that would mean I’d want him to survive.” Now, at no point did I actually feel like a member of the air crew was actively hoping for my demise based on my apparent college football loyalties, but I relegated the Notre Dame sweater to my hotel room all the same.
“Oh no, you’re fine here.” says Lauren Rich, Ph.D, Chair of the Department of Languages, Literature and Communication when I recount my tale. “Grace doesn’t have a football team, and Notre Dame isn’t very far from here.” We’re on home turf again, it seems, and it’s good to be back.
Lauren is responsible for bringing us to Grace and, following in the footsteps of many of the other wonderful and generous people we’ve been lucky enough to meet so far, will be taking care of us this week. She actually attended grad school at Notre Dame, and so can surely be counted on as an ally against any would-be jumper-shamers.
Grace is a small college; there are between 1,500 and 2,000 students here. Notre Dame, by
comparison, has about 8,000 students and UT-Austin dwarfs them both with over 50,000. So that gives you a bit of a clue. The auditorium where we’ll be performing the show is literally called ‘The Little Theatre’, and seats about 120 people. It’s perfect for our show. While we’ll happily rear up on our hind legs, and diaphragm our way through the bigger spaces, a smaller venue like this allows for an intimacy and closeness that is really special.
Not many shows left now… We’ve got three scheduled for this week, just the one next week in Colorado, and the two performances we’ll do in London after we get back for friends, family and agents. We’re really beginning to find things now. The very first performances, up the road in South Bend back in September, were just about getting through the thing. Surviving an entire performance without skipping a massive chunk or killing someone with a rogue umbrella. Later, once we had a real handle on it (the show, although handles falling off on stage has been a problem with the umbrellas), it became about keeping it alive, not allowing our new-found and hard-won ease lull us into switching on the autopilot. Now, as the sun starts to set on our time in America and Illyria, we’re really beginning to feel like we can play, to allow the scenes to breathe on their own, rather than having to breathe life into them ourselves or, as in some cases, administer full-on CPR.
It’s always the way. It’s often not until the week following a final performance of a show when I finally realise what a line really meant, or how a moment could have been played. It’s a good thing. It means that the work you’re doing isn’t ever really ‘finished’; there’s always more to do, and all you can do at the time is the best you can.
After our final show of the week, Lauren was kind enough to take us out to a Mexican restaurant that sold beer and was a short walk from our hotel, it being a rare treat not having to moot out a designated driver. At this point in the tour, I can safely say that I have stayed in enough hotels on the side of freeways to last me a lifetime – just saying.
Lauren brought her kids to the show, who apparently had a good time. Her son, Jonah, was playing around after they got home from the performance, and she was able to snap a photo of him holding up a hat, in true AFTLS style, to represent an invisible character in the story he was creating.
“Ah, look out. He’s going to end up being an actor if you’re not careful,” we warn her. “Sorry if we’ve given him the bug…” Lauren assures us, however, that the condition was pre-existing, and that Jonah is already well into his theatre, poor lad. At least there’s no need for us to hold ourselves too responsible if his stageyness does end up developing into acute, full-blown thespianism. It’s often a hereditary affliction but it’s also highly contagious, so watch yourself.
On our day off Al, Katherine and I decided to take a trip to one of the Amish settlements which are scattered around this part of Indiana. For anyone who doesn’t know, the Amish are a group of people who have chosen to reject modern technology for religious reasons, and who live in their own sheltered societies which retain a much more traditional way of life. They grow their own food, and tend their own animals. They don’t drive cars, instead riding from place to place on horse-drawn buggies.
The men, once married, don’t shave their beards except for their top lip – a tradition which stems from a silent protest against the typically mustachioed German Army, who persecuted the Swiss-German Anabaptist ancestors of the Amish who live in America today. The women wear a bonnet on their head – all day, every day – which is coloured black when they’re unmarried and white once they tie the knot. Amish people don’t wear wedding rings, as jewelry is thought to be an unnecessary extravagance. Most surprising to me, is their complete rejection of electricity; no power lines will run into an Amish home.
To a Western, city-dwelling millennial like myself, a life without electricity is unthinkable. No laptops, phones, or TV. But also no electric light, certainly no air conditioning to ease the baking sun and no plug-in heater to warm a bitter, cold night. Al made the salient point that, if society as we know it does arrive at its oft-threatened conclusion, the Amish would be absolutely fine. They don’t need power, they grow their own food, and they keep their own goats. They plant flowers next to their vegetables to distract insects which act as a natural pesticide, and if a barn burns down, Amish men and women from all over the country will flock to the settlement to rebuild it in one day.
Saying this, we also learnt of a man who lost his wife to typhoid fever after she drank from an
unclean well. The man then remarried only to have his second wife die in the exact same way after drinking from the exact same well. So maybe some technology is good. The man in question lived to the ripe old age of 98, by the way, which begs the question: where was he getting his drinking water?
We didn’t actually meet any Amish people as, it being a Sunday, they would all be visiting friends or family to worship. Thus ended our final day off of the tour, with imagined apocalypses and ideas about a way of life starkly different to our own.
One more week to go, and one more blog after this. I’d like to thank you, dear reader, for sticking with me thus far. Especially you, Kathleen Glen of Corby. Your niece, Katherine (whom, by the way, I have failed thus far to credit for all of the fantastic photos I’ve been using on these), says hello!
Our tour of this vast and fascinating country will conclude in the picturesque Colorado Springs, nestled in the Rocky Mountains and home to the US Air Force Academy. After having such a great time with the Navy a few weeks ago, I’m very excited to see what’s coming our way.