The drama classes at Cairn Community Arts Academy fill to capacity on a regular basis and it is not uncommon for a waiting list to begin even just a few days after registration begins. Because of this, we often double-cast our shows to allow for more students to participate. As a non-actor, I am incredibly impressed with the student’s ability to play a part one night and then the next night switch to another part seamlessly. The CCAA production of Peter Pan was no different. Many students had the opportunity to play two different roles, alternating these roles every other night.
Laurel Strickland and Leah Foster had the opportunity to share the role of Peter Pan. This was Laurel’s first time playing the role of a boy and found it to be a bit of a challenge. Leah felt equally nervous about play the role of a boy as well as a main character. But the very special and unique quality of being a part of a CCAA drama is the incredible support that the students find in their director (Chris Koch) as well as in each other. Laurel and Leah both felt that this experience grew their friendship. The girls would sit long periods of time discussing their character and his quirks, which brought them to both laughter and tears. They had the opportunity to encourage each other and help each other through difficult moments in their rehearsals.
The students at CCAA are not only learning the fundamentals of good acting but they are learning far more life skills such as cooperation and collaboration. They are building friendships, perhaps even life-long friends. They are learning to overcome their fears, to face difficulties and struggles head on and gain courage from it. But most importantly, they are growing in their faith in an environment where they are being encouraged. But rather than me tell you that, both Leah and Laurel would like to share a bit of their experience themselves.
Being a part of a CCAA performance doesn’t just mean you’ll grow in your acting, but it means you’ll grow in your faith. The story of Peter Pan has been close to my heart ever since I was little, but emphasizing the message of “home” made God so much more apparent in every moment of the show. I found, specifically this semester, that many of my cast mates (including me) were in need of this message of home. As we all grew closer and closer, it was no longer all about the acting. It was about putting our confidence in God, and knowing, more importantly believing, that God’s love was more than enough and that He was always calling us home. Believing in that only made the show stronger.
The people involved in the show were simply amazing. I’d never felt more loved or encouraged in my entire life. I was blessed with a beautiful double, my long lost twin, Laurel Strickland, who was incredible to work with and incredibly hard to leave! And I was blessed, once again, with the most amazing director, Mrs. Koch. I can wholeheartedly say I would not be where I am today, in my acting or in my faith, without her. Never will she cease to amaze me!
It was beyond a delight to act beside the beautiful people that I honestly now consider family. Continually, I’m amazed at how God uses each and every person to shine His light in a different way. And I already miss it. My heart hurts a bit thinking that I’ve danced my last “Na-Na Dance” and crowed my last crow. But it hasn’t ended quite yet. God continues to work in us, love us, and call us home. And that’s something I truly believe will never end. After my crazy and fun-filled journey in Neverland, I have to say that to live for Christ is an awfully big adventure!
Peter Pan is the production, which has been the hardest to let go. My circle of friends grew wider and stronger, and stuck through the thick and thin with me. I started the semester unsure of what was going to happen. I didn’t expect to find so much love when I thought I was only leaving friends behind. Receiving the lead role was a shock, and terrified me for weeks. Despite me missing courage, my double, Leah Foster, was encouraging in ways indescribable. She held my hand whenever I was unsure, and led me through dark tunnels of self-criticism with a flashlight from heaven.
There is a scene in Peter Pan when Peter is yelling in anguish at Wendy for her to leave Neverland, hiding the fact he is hurting deeply. The last time I performed that scene I let my heart scream, but not for Wendy, for Leah.
This semester has been one I will never forget. Mrs. Koch blessed me with an amazing script that allowed me to explore all angles of my character. Having that opportunity helped me grow immensely in my acting. I cannot thank her enough for all the encouragement and hard work she puts into every show.
Performing Peter Pan has been a thrilling experience that has brought me closer to my friends, and more of them. I remember several times when the chapel was filled with laughter from every corner, and it took all my effort to keep a straight face on stage. Mrs. Koch never failed to amaze me with her wonderful ideas, and steadfast faith in the Lord. Although this play will be the saddest to leave behind, I would never trade this experience just to rid myself of the reality that it must come to an end. I only wish the play would go on.
Never would I trade the experience of endless laughter and joy just to rid myself of the momentary pain of it ending. I would like to end this story as it began, with a thank you for the friendship and encouragement I have been blessed with this semester. Thank you Papa God for the gifts you gave me of love and joy. Never could a thousand tears drown the happiness you placed in my life.