You’ve heard the saying: There are no small parts, only small actors. But Daiszy Preston wasn’t so sure when she was cast as the toy monkey in Valley Fellowship Christian Academy’s version of “The Velveteen Rabbit.” The book didn’t even have a toy monkey in it—the part had to be written in by a playwright who needed more characters. But, after rehearsals upon rehearsals, and having her photo professionally taken by Pixel Me Photography, Daiszy started to think differently.
“Even though I got a small part, I realized God could use me in a small part,” Daiszy said in one of the rehearsals.
Other students echoed the same sentiment.
VFCA is welcoming a newly formed theater program. While they have done shows in the past, they were on a smaller scale with fewer professional touches. Melissa Bryant, the play’s director and head of the Valley Fellowship theater program, pulled out all the stops for her first show. She had parents make the costumes, and then she called in Sarah Annerton of Pixel Me Photography to take photos for guests to look at in the lobby before the show.
Sarah has long ties with Valley Fellowship—she’s the chosen photographer for the school—but she also has a business model dedicated to helping groups showcase the wonderful things they are doing. Think of Sarah as someone who finds jewels in the rough. She knows the awesome things groups or businesses are doing, then she uses her skills as a photographer to show the rest of the world.
That’s why she jumped on the opportunity to take photos of “The Velveteen Rabbit” cast.
Melissa envisioned of one of the large photo boards, like the ones some of the larger theater companies use in their promotions. Since she’s new to the school, Melissa enlisted Sarah to help execute her vision with portraits that captured the personality of each character.
It made a difference, too. Some of the students hadn’t seen their costumes or the sets until their photo sessions with Sarah. That’s when the magic came alive for the 24-member cast who finally saw themselves dressed as Raggedy Ann dolls, rabbits and people from the turn of the century.
The photos helped the theater program as well.
“The pictures have helped really spark the interest of the music from both the parents and the school family at Valley,” Melissa said.
Picking A Musical
Melissa is new to Valley Fellowship this year, with past experience at Greengate School. When she decided to bring the first theater program to Valley Fellowship, she spent the summer praying over scripts. That’s one of the things that sets Valley Fellowship apart from other schools. Everything they do—from curriculum to extra-curricular activities—is Christ-centered.
“That’s the story the Lord told me to do because He knew the students who would be auditioning, and He knew the talent they would be bringing,” Melissa said.
“As soon as I saw the ‘Velveteen Rabbit,’ I knew. I didn’t understand, but I knew…as soon as I saw ‘The Velveten Rabbit,’ I shut the door. There was no other script to look at.”
Once Melissa knew what musical she wanted to do, she rallied the Valley Fellowship troops—parents, students, teachers and local businesses who supported her mission to put on a full-length musical.
The school’s focus on biblical principles carried over to the rehearsals. They prayed and sang worship songs during practices. Throughout the preparation, Melissa said she saw the students grow, spiritually as well as socially, as they got to be close friends with cast members in other grades.
Shekinah Spears is an 11th grader at Valley Fellowship who expressed her excitement about being on the ground-level of a budding theater program.
“I’m in different productions in the city because this is what I want to go into, but this is the only production where I truly see God in the middle of it,” Shekinah told Melissa.
A Christian Twist—Spoiler Alert
“The Velveteen Rabbit” is one of those books most people read at some point in their childhoods. For Melissa, it was also a script that could easily be revised to add in Christian themes. For example, the boy in the story has scarlet fever. Melissa added a scene in the musical where the family prays for him to be healed.
Melissa wanted the cast to know that this was an opportunity to share their faith as well as their acting ability.
“We may be sharing this to a lost audience,” Melissa said. “We have an opportunity to share Christ with them.”
The musical is open to the public on December 14 and 15 at 6 p.m. at the Valley Fellowship sanctuary. Admission is free.