Student hopes love for acting becomes tool for service

Hillsboro native Molly Wiebe Faber says the upcoming Tabor College production of “A Doll’s House” is a favorite among a long resume of productions that began for her in the second grade. Her career goal is to combine her love for theater and her love for helping others. Don Ratzlaff / Free Press
Hillsboro native Molly Wiebe Faber says the upcoming Tabor College production of “A Doll’s House” is a favorite among a long resume of productions that began for her in the second grade. Her career goal is to combine her love for theater and her love for helping others. Don Ratzlaff / Free Press
Molly Wiebe Faber has had her eye on theater for about as long as she can remember.

“I think I was in the second grade when the high school did ‘The King and I,’” said the third-year Tabor College student from Hills­boro. “We all got a slip of paper at school saying something about auditions at the high school because they needed some kids.

“I told my dad I really wanted to do it, so he was the one who brought me,” she added. “We went up in groups according to our age, and I remember seeing my dad from the back go, ‘Speak loud!’ So I said my name really loud and proud—and I got to be in the show.”

Fast-forward about 13 years and Wiebe Faber has compiled a surprisingly lengthy theater resume as she prepares to take on the lead role in Tabor’s spring production of “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen March 8-11.

Shows will start all four nights at 7:30 p.m. in the Lab Theater located in the basement of the Lohrenz Admin­istration Building.

Building a resume

By the time Wiebe Faber started high school, she had already participated in four Tabor productions.

“Somehow, Judy Harder (retired Tabor theater professor) asked me to help with a show one time when I was in elementary school, and I ended up doing that a couple of times all the way through eighth grade.”

High school offered Wiebe Faber even more opportunities to scratch the acting itch.

“The most memorable one was my freshman year doing ‘Beauty and the Beast,’” she said. “I didn’t think I’d get any lines or anything. I ended up getting a couple of lines and that was just really a big deal for me at the time.”

By the time she graduated from HHS in 2014, Wiebe Faber had performed in the fall and spring productions each of her four years, including leading roles her senior year in the fall musical, “Cinderella,” and the production of “The Curious Savage” in spring.

Transition to Tabor

Continuing her education at Tabor College seemed to be a seemless decision for her.

“I definitely knew I still wanted to do shows, but I didn’t anticipate that I would change my major to theater,” she said, having enrolled with the intention of earning a social work degree.

“I just didn’t like the classes like I thought I would,” she admitted with a smile. “It’s definitely still a part of me, though. When I hear people say they’re a social work major, I want to know all about it and why they love it.”

Meanwhile, stepping up to college-level theater carried some anxiety for Wiebe Faber.

“My freshman year the play was ‘Our Town,’” she said. “I remember coming in to auditions and being very nervous because this was a whole new ball game of auditioning against college-level actors—including seniors and juniors. Also, there was this new director here. I knew Judy, but I didn’t know Laurel (Koerner), so that was new.”

Wiebe Faber ended up winning the role of Emily, one of the main characters.

“Because of that, I got to work a lot with Laurel and some of the more experienced cast members,” Wiebe Faber said. “I think that helped develop my love for theater even more.”

Consistent participation

Since that time, Wiebe Faber has acted in all six shows produced by Koerner in this her third year.

“I really have enjoyed all of them,” Wiebe Faber said. “I really have loved the shows that Laurel has picked out. The show coming up is the one I’ve been most excited about because we talk about this show in Intro to Theater class.

“It’s just so well written,” she added. “There’s so many double meanings in all of the lines. As an actor, that’s just really fun. The audience may not pick up on everything, but as somebody who’s been studying the script, it makes it more fun.”

Koerner has no regrets about her choice to cast Wiebe Faber in her initial audition.

“In casting Molly in her first role here, I took the chance that she could be taught to be vulnerable on stage and experience genuine emotion in front of an audience,” Koerner said. “She proved she could do that, and it’s been a key factor in her work since then.

“It has allowed her to tackle roles like Catherine in ‘Proof’ and now Nora in ‘A Doll’s House.’ She has an ability to empathize that makes her able to access and portray complex characters, and it’s got to do with her genuine concern for others.”

Looking ahead

Wiebe Faber will be completing her degree in Decem­ber 2017, which means she won’t have the opportunity to perform as a student in the new fine arts center.

“I kind of did that to myself because I’m graduating a semester early,” she said. “So I’m bummed about that. I’d love to perform in there.”

But looking beyond completing her degree, Wiebe Faber’s “genuine concern for others” is leading her to combine theater and service.

“I really love to act, so I think I would like to get a master of fine arts in acting and maybe do that for a few years,” she said. “But I would also love to work for a theater company, either as an actor or administrator or director—something that does community theater in a more rural setting, and does theater with a mindset of service.”

Koerner said Wiebe Faber is perfect for such role.

“Molly’s heart for service has been evident in her college career overall, and specifically in her sense of theater’s purpose—to heal, to offer hope and to give us a clear sense of who we are so that we can be better.

“This perspective is one that our program espouses, but also something I think Molly has understood intuitively all along,” she added.

“What she’s found here are many possible ways to connect her sense of purpose with her passion for the art form. Wherever this takes her, I have no doubt she will pursue it with a diligence and genuine concern for others that can only yield good things.”

Senior project

Wiebe Faber said she plans to take a step in that direction this spring for her senior project.

“I’m going to direct something and haven’t nailed down what that is yet, but with the idea of it being a topic of justice that this campus needs to hear about.”

To find out what that topic was, she and fellow students surveyed the student body and got back some 200 responses on what students feel is an issue that needs to be addressed.

“We’re going to take that information, pick a show and then perform it,” Wiebe Faber said. “I think that’s something I’d like to do on a larger scale.”

The seed for her project began to come together in her mind last semester.

“I wrote a paper last semester and kind of made a thesis statement about how Christians should be using theater more to serve people and spread messages to people that have Christian themes.

“This is what theater is for, and now I’m going to put it into practice.”