As They Like It

October 18, 2004

Chris Cragin and Steven Day said their marriage vows to each other eight times. And then they said them once more, and meant it.
The two met as undergraduates in theater at Oklahoma Baptist University and fell in love when they were cast as a couple who gets married in Shakespeare's "As You Like It." After graduation, they married and came to Baylor for their graduate work -- primarily because of OBU theater professor Marion Castleberry, now associate professor of theater arts and director of theater graduate studies at Baylor. The University is one of about 40 schools nationwide that has a master's of fine arts directing program and is the only Baptist university to offer any terminal degree in theater.
"Faith is a very important part of our art, and the theatrical community has often shied away from involving faith with the arts," Steven says. "We felt that Baylor was a community where we would be with people who would understand and respect that part of our lives." The couple would like to open a Christian theater in the future.
Now in their third and final year of the MFA program, the couple spent the summer in New York City, working alongside famous directors and designers at Lamb's Theater in Times Square, a well-known, off-Broadway venue that opened in the late 1970s. 
As musical stager and assistant to the director for Lamb's latest show, a new musical called "Children's Letters to God," Steven worked closely with Olivier Award nominee Stafford Arima, the show's director. Chris served as house and literary manager. "I've learned so much about commercial theater. It's completely different from nonprofit or university theater. It's been a really great process for us," she says. 
The opportunity to work at Lamb's came through Baylor's unique relationship with Pulitzer- and Oscar-winning Texas playwright Horton Foote, of the Horton Foote American Playwrights Festival on campus. Castleberry, a Foote biographer and scholar, is responsible in large part for fostering this connection with Carolyn Rossi Copeland, executive producer at Lamb's. "Horton called Carolyn and asked her to visit Baylor. That's how we met her," says Steven, who met playwright Arthur Giron, the subject of his thesis, through people who attended the Foote festival.
The MFA program is in its 10th year, and this fall has seven students. Each of the seven plays performed annually on one of the three Baylor Theatre stages is either directed or assistant-directed by the MFA students. This fall, Chris directed her thesis show, "The Clearing," by Helen Edmundson, and this spring Steven will direct "Flight" by Giron, who will work with him at Baylor. These plays also will be the topic of their written dissertations, a requirement that demonstrates the depth of the directing program, Castleberry says. 
"I don't know that I would be investing so much time writing if I hadn't gone to Baylor. I'm definitely a better director for having gone through that program," says Chris, who recently was commissioned to write a play for Art Within, a theater in Atlanta, Ga. 
"We love the faculty and staff and believe that they are very skilled at what they do -- professionally as well as academically," Steven says.
Castleberry says some of the highlights of Baylor's MFA program are the amount of individual attention students get, the wealth of hands-on experience and the opportunity to work with undergraduates. "The relationships between directors and students -- I think that is a major emphasis and a very positive one," he says. 
Chris relishes the collaborative nature of working in the theater, and Steven takes pleasure in the personal interaction between the audience and the cast. Like his favorite playwright Giron, Steven believes that "theater helps us to see the image of God in each other and helps us to see God more clearly."