A unique tradition of the Campus Players is the annual production of the Christmas morality play, Eagerheart. In 1933, President Kirk asked Miss Graham to direct some Christmas play for the final chapel before Christmas vacation. She remembered a morality play in which she had appeared while in high school about the turn of the century (i.e., circa 1900). In her files she found her script of Eagerhert by A.M. Buckton.
Copies were made and the play was produced. Dr Kirk was so pleased that he asked for a repeat performance the next year. The play has been performed every year since at the final chapel before Christmas. Recently, the show has grown such that it is given as a gift to the Southwestern community and performed four times.
Traditionally, all of the roles are taken by Campus Players. Two senior girls and two faculty or staff members are chosen by the members of Campus Players to play the role of the Honored Maiden, or Mary. The women are selected based on their contributions to campus life and their personifications of the Christian values of Eagerheart. The identity of the Honored Maiden is never revealed until the adoration tableau at the end of the play.
When Richardson Hall burned in 1950, the scripts were destroyed. For Christmas of that year, a platform was built in the Music Hall auditorium for the performance but no one could find a script. Finally, Miss Graham, who had directed the play for seventeen years, wrote out the script from memory. Later a copy was found in an anthology of Christmas plays and Miss Graham's memory proved excellent.
All of the traditional costumes and properties were also burned. Contributions came from everywhere. The now-defunct Leneans, a campus religious drama group, contributed Biblical costumes that had been stored in Miss Dielmann's garage. Mrs. Visonhaler, wife of the Professor of Romance Languages, donated her antique gravy boat to be made into Eagerheart's lamp. The music department rearranged Bach chorales for the musical accompaniment. The wrought-iron candelabra salvaged from the fire became a traditional part of the set decoration, and has been used every year since.
Elements of the original production are still used in the productions of today. Much of the set design, props and blocking has remained the same since the original 1933 production. Helen Graham made some of the costumes used in the currently produced shows after the 1950 fire destroyed the originals. The play has been produced almost every year since 1933. Some years during World War II were skipped when there were not enough men to fill all the roles. In 1953 the city gas supply was shut off and it was too cold to have school so the students were dismissed a day early, before the play was given. In 1960 Amahl and the Night Visitor was presented instead.
Eagerheart has become a part of Campus Players. Even the technical elements have adopted names such as "Eagerprops" and "Eagerlights." A line from the play, "Hail, friend, how goes it with the eternal quest?", has become the official greeting of the organization since these words came in a Christmas telegram from a former "King of Wisdom" just before he was killed in World War II. The quote is also on the Campus Player Rock.
Campus Players Banquet
Every April just prior to graduation, Campus Players has a banquet to honor its members. The evening begins at the Campus Players' Rock in front of the Christy Administration Building on the Southwestern College campus. There the president of the organization makes a speech to sum up the preceding year's events and achievements. The group then proceeds down the Campus Player hallway, sign the scrapbook, and gather towards the end of the hallway. Then the graduating seniors receive their caricatures, sign them, and they are hung in the gallery continuing the tradition. The members then assemble in the lobby of Richardson Auditorium and line up in pairs for the processional to the stage. Finally, they process down the aisle, and ascend steps to the exquisitely decorated stage where dinner awaits them.
After dinner, the awards ceremony begins. Helen Grahammies are awarded to students who achieve excellence for their work in the theatre. Hell 'n GrabMe's are comic awards bestowed on Campus Players by fellow members.
The Campus Players banquet is a great way to recognize the student's adherence to the four pillars established in the Constitution. It is also a celebration of the theatre and its participants who have dedicated their lives to the art.