Theatre and Dance Adapts Fall Season

Like all of our programs, the Department of Theatre and Dance had to adapt how they teach, rehearse, and perform due to the pandemic. With the eyes of the public on their performances, the students adapted techniques, technology, and even costumes, to produce successful performances this fall. You can read about their three productions — The Theory of Relativity, An Enemy of the People, and Dance 2020: The Wild Within — at the links below.

Dance 2020: The Wild Within

An Enemy of the People

The Theory of Relativity

Dance 2020: The Wild Within

The Theory of Relativity

Adapting to COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed everything — how we learn, work and play. The Otterbein community has met the challenges of this pandemic with a variety of responses that are defined by grace, humility, humor, and ultimately, resilience and hope. In checking in with our community, we found shared truths that remind us we are not alone in what we feel, how we are coping and what we are learning about ourselves in adapting to this temporary but challenging COVID-19 world.

Sarah Bouchard


Sarah Bouchard, a professor in biology and earth science, describes adapting to the pandemic in phases. “At first, it was all crisis management: Who needs a computer? Who needs help with their wi-fi connection? Does everyone have a safe place to live?,” Bouchard said.

Then, after the dust settled and it was time to “get down to the business of teaching and learning,” Bouchard said it felt a bit like staring into an abyss. “I knew my students were all out there, but I wasn’t sure what was going on with them.”

Now, she says she’s discovered that with careful planning, creativity and flexibility, she can still capture much of what it means to be teaching and learning despite the challenges.

“Although it has been hard, my classes are all benefitting from the revisions and adaptations that I have had to make,” Bouchard said. “The pandemic has really highlighted how much I value the close, personal relationships that I’m able to have with my students.”

Bouchard, named Otterbein’s 2020 Master Teacher, is a physiological ecologist, active researcher and active part of the Zoo and Conservation Science program.

Fernando Jose-Chairez ’23

The biggest challenge I’ve faced during this pandemic has been trying to stay financially afloat while trying to grow as a person. Financially, I am on my own more than ever. Growing as a person is another challenge — it’s hard to know who one is if all you can do is mostly stay indoors, online.

Adeline Almendinger ’19

Adeline Almendinger ’19 turned an internship into a full-time job as an assistant merchant at Express when she graduated. Until March 2020, she reviewed and planned timelines and sales from week to week, arranged store “looks” and worked with multiple teams to decide which styles will sell. But how has the fashion retail industry dealt with a pandemic when people aren’t shopping in stores, dressing for work or going out to eat? Almendinger said it requires a different approach to decision making. “COVID has made things a lot harder from a retail perspective because we are not able to physically see the product,” she said, adding that making connections with her teams also has been challenging.

Theory of Relativity:

“Otterbein University’s deft first streaming production brims with ardent singing and honest emotions.”  Those are the words of theatre critic Michael Grossberg, The Columbus Dispatch, about Otterbein’s first socially distanced production, The Theory of Relativity. The departments of Theatre and Dance and Music partnered to safely produce the musical, filming fully staged performances in advance — complete with lights, sound, scenery and costumes — and streaming to audiences online from Oct. 8-11.

Paul Wendel

So how are the teachers who are preparing the future teachers adapting? “We’ve learned to hold good classes in configurations ranging from entirely online
to half in-person and half online. We’ve learned to conduct socially distanced in-person experiments with online lab partners, sometimes conducting the
experiments outdoors.”  The adaptations go beyond Wendel’s classes into his students’ K-12 field placements. “Our students are teaching classes in person
and online, learning a wide range of online tools in the process,” he said. 

This award-winning educator offers the perfect lesson to this situation. “With a good deal of humor we’re all adapting, learning and growing together as educators — and we’re finding we can handle just about anything,” Wendel said.
Wendel was named the 2020 Exemplary Teacher and proudly describes his students as his future colleagues.

Lisa Minken ’03


Promoting CAPA’s Broadway in Columbus Series changed dramatically for Lisa Minken ’03 in March when she learned during a Columbus run of My Fair Lady that the State of Ohio was restricting theatre performances. “The show opened on a Wednesday and by Thursday gatherings were no more.” Since then, her work has focused on keeping fans engaged until theatre makes a comeback. “Normally we would be in our current season and we would have already had a show,” she said. Predicting the future during the pandemic is difficult, but Minken is hopeful Broadway in Columbus can return by spring 2021. “Every day is a day closer to having our theatre doors open.”

Sara Anloague Bogan ’18

Since March, Sara Anloague Bogan ’18 has been supporting the incident command center at OhioHealth’s flagship hospital, Riverside Methodist Hospital, from home. Her goal is to keep OhioHealth associates and leaders informed and resilient through these hard times and support OhioHealth’s back-to-business efforts. “COVID-19 intensifies the need for clear, engaging communication. Because of the change of pace, there is always something that makes my job challenging,” she said.

Randy Mobley ’80


Each spring, Randy Mobley ’80 would complete final planning and oversight tasks and gear up for the regular season to start. This season was different.  “We shut down in March and began reworking our schedule, thinking we could start as early as late May. You look back now and think how silly we were,” Mobley said. Now, Mobley is unsure about the future. Minor League Baseball teams continue to lose revenue while Major League Baseball is seeking to alter its relationship with the minor leagues. “We’re going to do what we can do,” he said, “but for now we’re along for the ride.”

Evan Brandao ’22


I have been using this time to think about what my passions are, how I want to pursue them and how Otterbein can help me. I’ve been reaching out to local professionals to get advice, and it is amazing how much insight people are willing to provide if you take the initiative to reach out.

Jeremy Llorence


Jeremy Llorence, an assistant professor in English, has encouraged his students to find activities or hobbies that they find fulfilling to balance their worries. “You can use things you enjoy doing to recharge after all of the video calls you’re going through,” Llorence said. “Whether for socialization, for classes or for work, video calls can be really draining. I think it’s important for your mental health to take that time for yourself to do things that you find fulfilling — whether that’s creative work or just reading a book that you really love.” Llorence acknowledges that these are difficult times — but he’s taking heart. “If I’ve learned anything at Otterbein over my career here, it’s that we are a strong community, we are capable and we will get through this together,” he said. Llorence was named the 2020 Best New Teacher and is the faculty advisor for Otterbein’s Quiz and Quill literary magazine.

Lily Burnside ’23


I found a hobby of gardening. Working at the Otterbein Community garden was perfect because it was easy to social distance with my coworkers and because of the mental health benefits of being outdoors.

Anna Egensperger ’23


The biggest challenge I have faced during the pandemic is the inability to focus during online classes. I was frustrated with my lack of concentration, so I decided to take action to combat it.

Conversation and Connecting about Social Justice

James Prysock ’09, MBA’19, director of Otterbein’s Office of Social Justice and Activism, connected with Otterbein graduate, Tony Bishop ’15, MSAH’18, the new executive director of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, and Desmond Fernandez ’21, a senior BFA acting major who organized several Westerville-based Black Lives Matter protests this summer. During their conversation, Bishop and Fernandez shared their insights and hopes for how working together can enable change.

PRYSOCK: Part of advocacy is doing some things you don’t necessarily have to do, but it’s something that you really want to do. Why did you feel it was so important to be a part of the leadership of the Westerville protest, Desmond?

Desmond Fernandez ’21 said this is his time to be a part of bettering his community.

FERNANDEZ: I’ve been a part of this community for so long — it’s my lifeline for success and happiness. This is my time to be a part of this mission to better our community and make it even more diverse and more inclusive.

What I thought was going to be maybe 50 people was almost 1,000 people. It was inspiring. Not only was I protesting with my classmates, I was protesting with my teachers. Teachers who exposed me to morals and lessons from To Kill a Mockingbird; who helped mold my belief that black people do have a purpose in theatre; who were there photographing everything to make sure it leaves an imprint on our history — and one professor even brought her son. What this is about is deeply ingrained in my community … Westerville is going to be an example by the time we get done with this.

PRYSOCK: What specific changes would you like to see to be an inclusive community?

BISHOP: Community is the way through all of this. These protests are everybody — young, old, black, white and everybody in between. That’s the beautiful thing about it. This is our opportunity right now to redefine what it means to be an American and say that is an inclusive thing. The reason we are so strong as a country, historically, is because of our diversity. The only substantive pillar of American exceptionalism is the fact that we’re all in it together. We have the best minds from all over the world under one roof. I’d like to see people rally around that.

FERNANDEZ: For me, it’s unity. If we get stuck in these debates of each side saying, “I’m not going to budge,” we’re going to remain stagnant. We’ve got to be able to find that middle ground. We’ve got to come together. Then, as we begin to understand one another, what is the next action going to be? We’ve got to hold those that are in a higher position than us accountable. We’ve got to know who to contact — whether that’s in Congress or local legislators. Voting is a powerful thing. Voting is not the cure — it is simply a tool. We’ve got to do other things as well.

PRYSOCK: Tony, you passed on one opportunity in order to work for the Black Caucus. What compelled you? (Bishop was invited as the United States’ representative to the Foreign Service program at the University of Oxford, England.)

BISHOP: If something happens to this place and I was somewhere else and I wasn’t doing my part — protesting, helping out legislatively — I don’t think I could live with myself. This country is everything to me despite its flaws and warts … we believe so much in this place that we’re honestly willing to die for it. 

Also, when you do the right thing, good things normally come back to you. I got invited to speak in the U.K. about what I’m doing now. It all comes full circle when you do what you’re supposed to do. 

Otterbein instilled that in us — making those values basically a part of the core curriculum. Otterbein has a history of doing what’s right before it’s popular and not being afraid to stand out there as the first one. That level of sacrifice is necessary to change something.

PRYSOCK: What advice would you give to people who want to be advocates and are trying to figure out the way to best support their community?

FERNANDEZ: Alice Walker. Rosa Parks. Martin Luther King Jr. Malcolm X. Maya Angelou. John Lewis. Colin Kaepernick. These are absolutely profound people, and they made a huge impact on our American culture. But they’re just humans. You don’t need to give speeches in front of thousands of people or have all the press there to be an advocate. These people were advocates but they’re also activists. Like the first part of that word, you simply need to act. You’ve got to do it and you’ve got to act now.

BISHOP: The best way to formulate changes to a system is to learn how it works in the first place so you know you can rebuild it better. I’ll give you a quote from the movement: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Everybody has a part to play. There’s a way to raise awareness about what’s happening and show where you stand. Whatever your strengths are — volunteering your time or baking cookies or whatever — there’s a place in this for everybody.

Marginalized Voices

Artwork descriptions by Janice Glowski, Ph.D. and Magda Parasidis

Otterbein Art Exhibitions Put Social Justice Issues on Display

The Otterbein Department of Art and Art History has opened the University’s museum and gallery spaces this year to the issues of labor justice, the poor working-class, immigration and systemic racism with three exhibitions, two during fall semester and one during spring semester. 

According to Museum and Galleries Director Janice Glowski, the Department wants those who see the exhibits to ask where they see themselves in the art, the stories and the exhibition themes. She hopes they will allow themselves to be open to change and being uncomfortable because that, Glowski said, is when the greatest learning occurs. 

“Part of Otterbein’s educational mission is to train students to think critically, clearly and in an informed way about the narratives that dominate our social discourse,” said Glowski. “Importantly, we are asking the viewer to question, to look deeper into their understandings and to ask themselves difficult and sometimes uncomfortable questions.”

The three exhibitions — Magda Parasidis: Ghosts in Sunlight, On(c)es Forgotten and Valentino Dixon: Journey to Freedom — are challenging longheld assumptions about poverty, race and our country’s history. These exhibitions are meant to question the single narrative by directly addressing social issues through an aesthetic lens, present new voices and share often untold narratives.

“We are demonstrating that the Otterbein community is willing to commit to doing the hard work of listening, learning, being honest and moving toward shared truths. We are willing to engage in the difficult work of healing, so we can create the possibility of jettisoning the notion that there is a hierarchy of human value,” she said.

All exhibits are free and open to the public. Visit for more information on hours and location.

Kelly & Kyle Phelps
28 x 22 x 10 inches
ceramic mixed media

Kelly and Kyle Phelps’ large-scale, wall-mounted art is arresting and relatable. Naturalistic depictions of miners, machinists and welders show poignant moments when weary laborers are on break, at shift’s end or nearly collapsed under the weight of plant closings and layoffs. Grace, like Phelps’ other work, is built of found objects (e.g. metal, bandana, lipstick tube) from abandoned factories across the rural Midwest.

Valentino Dixon
color pencil on paper
20 x 16 inches

Vibrant drawings of golf courses brought Valentino Dixon’s twenty-seven years of wrongful incarceration, and artistic talents, to the national stage. Since gaining his freedom, the artist has expanded his repertoire to include bucolic landscapes, wild animals in fantastical surroundings and imagery touched by the surreal. In Hummingbird, Dixon depicts a golf ball-headed bird in mid-flight and holding a fencing sword, disarming the viewer with whimsy.

Magda Parasidis
Chasm / The Distance
C-print, ink marker
24 x 36 inches
1993 – 2018

The Distance, inspired by Ta-nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, reads, “this chasm makes itself known to us in all kinds of ways,” referring to the socioeconomic distance between the urban youth of the projects and their more affluent counterparts over the bridge. Parasidis explores what it might look like to use this awareness as a nutrient for the making of art and social consciousness.

Janice Glowski, Ph.D, is the museum and galleries director and teaches art history and museum studies at Otterbein. She is co-founder of the Otterbein and the “Arts: Opening Doors to the World” program.

Otterbein’s Small Pieces of Armor

Building PPE to Protect our Community

Students and University leaders working to help the greater community is nothing new to Otterbein. When a small team of students rallied together with The Point staff to build personal protective equipment (PPE) in preparation for an anticipated central Ohio outbreak of COVID-19, no one was surprised. According to Erin Bender, executive director of The Point, “it’s just the Otterbein way.”

Making the PPE.

Running the laser engraver.

“When we found out there was a need in the community, the first thing that the students and our lab manager asked was, ’How can we help?’” Bender said that even as the University was shifting to working from home, the team realized that the tools and equipment at The Point’s Maker Space could be valuable in helping. “As the situation continued to unveil itself, we were looking on blogs, we were looking to some of our corporate partners, we were looking to our healthcare institutions — and we were talking to them on a regular basis to learn what they needed and how we could help them.”

Bender said that the collaborative approach informed better decisions and a better strategy. “Rather than just making this or that, we went to our partners and said, for example, ’OhioHealth — how can we best support you? Here are the tools and things we have.’”

The community partners responded with their needs and asked if Otterbein could help. So Otterbein got to work.

Bender said that as the situation was unfolding, some companies were making free designs for PPE available. The team tried a few and found they weren’t good. Curtis Smith, the operations manager of the Maker Space and labs at The Point, had a source in Australia. They connected and Otterbein’s team started to hone in on a design to start 3-D printing protective face shields. Soon after, one of the engineering students also came up with a great design to use laser printer technology to create even more face shields.

“We have five students working on this project,” Smith said. “Their majors range from engineering to education and we have some graduate assistants as well.”

Smith said the team is taking precautions and that he’s keeping contact limited to just two people per shift to keep students safe.

Bender and Smith report that as of May 11, the team has made more than 400 face shields that are already in use with the supplies to make 1,000. “If there are other organizations that need a face shield protector, we’re happy to do that,” Bender said.

The Point-produced PPE has been donated to community partners including St. Ann’s Hospital, Westerville City Police and EMS, Friendship Village of Columbus, Heartland of Westerville, OhioHealth, DASCO home healthcare providers and Otterbein’s own facilities team and janitorial services crew.

Printing 3D models


Student at the laser engraver

But Otterbein’s help doesn’t stop there. The team at The Point is also making 3-D printed bushings for OhioHealth. Bender explained that this small piece means a critical piece of equipment can be kept outside of a patient’s room. This gives nurses and doctors immediate monitoring of ventilator operations without having to be completely dressed in PPE to go inside the room every time. Otterbein has made almost 300 of those pieces as of May 1.

Bender said the team was also asked to pre-emptively produce a component that would give hospitals the ability to split ventilators to serve more patients if needed. Otterbein’s team also recently started making ear-saving straps to alleviate discomfort by those wearing masks for long stretches of time.

Bender said The Point’s organizing principles enabled them to mobilize rapidly. “The Point’s nimbleness means that when we get a call from somebody who needs something, we can immediately discuss what we can do, how much it might cost to make, and what materials it might take.”

However, she says The Point’s real advantage comes from another source. “It’s the ingenuity of the students that separates us from a lot of places around town. In just a few hours our students will come up with something that’s better. They want to give back. Otterbein people don’t think about themselves first, we think about how we can provide for our partners.”

Beyond the power of this crisis learning experience, Bender says this work is something they will all remember. “I think everyone feels like they’ve been able to contribute in a bigger way. The small pieces we can contribute are a piece that someone puts on every day as their armor during this pandemic. To know that we’ve been a part of that makes us feel good.”

Making the PPE.

Making the PPE.