“Vision of New Life,” a play written by local playwright and theatre director Max Bush about Holland’s early years, will be staged on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 26 and 27, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on both days at Hope College in the John and Dede Howard Recital Hall of the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts.
Tickets are required, and are free but limited in quantity. They are available in advance at the college’s A.C. Van Raalte Institute in the Theil Research Center. Any remaining tickets for “Vision of a New Life” will be available at the door.
Based on the writings of early settlers in Holland, “Vision of a New Life” portrays the rugged and challenging life of the Dutch immigrants on the outskirts of Western civilization. The production is sponsored by the Van Raalte Institute as one of a series of celebratory events in recognition of its 25th anniversary.
In the middle of the 19th century, an intrepid band of Dutch Calvinists, led by their pugnacious dominie, the Rev. Dr. Albertus C. Van Raalte, left the relative comfort and familiarity of their ancestral homes for a land of promise and uncertainty — the unknown wilderness of Western Michigan. Their new land of freedom, however, was plagued by malaria in the summer and unbearable dampness and cold during the winter.
When the Dutch immigrants arrived on the banks of Black Lake (now Lake Macatawa), they were greeted by people who were a new experience for them: native inhabitants, Catholics and Methodists. Sometimes helpfully and sometimes haltingly, these strangers showed the newcomers how to build a new life in the forests and swamps, and along the banks of the rivers and shores of the lakes. Difficulty in communication confounded the locals and the immigrants, and Dutch-speaking Europeans and Algonquin-speaking Native Americans; separatist Calvinists and New World Catholics; and transplanted urbanites and nomadic horticulturalists all had to find a way to live in harmony.
Founded during the 1993-94 academic year, the Van Raalte Institute specializes in scholarly research and writing on immigration and the contributions of the Dutch and their descendants in the United States. The institute is also dedicated to the study of the history of all the people who have comprised the community of Holland throughout its history.
The institute’s anniversary events began with an open house at the Theil Research Center on Tuesday, Nov. 27. In addition to the play, events also include a presentation on the life and times of Mrs. Albertus (Christina) Van Raalte at Hope College’s Winter Happening, which is also on Saturday, Jan. 26; the exhibition “Seeing Through Dutch Eyes: Landscape Images of Chris Stoffel Overvoorde,” showing at the Holland Area Arts Council through Monday, Feb. 25; and the formal release, in April, of Provost Emeritus Dr. Jacob E. Nyenhuis’ monumental history, “Hope College at 150.”
The Theil Research Center is located at 9 E. 10th St., between Central and College avenues, and is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts is located at 221 Columbia Ave., between Ninth and 10th streets.