By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON — Rich in cultural traditions and history and bursting at the seams with great music, “Fiddler on the Roof, Jr.” makes fertile territory for Central Christian Church’s summer youth arts camp.
While other churches host Vacation Bible Schools to keep kids engaged in a fun way during the summer, Central Christian looks to theatre.
“It’s kind of a natural thing for us,” said the Rev. Rick Vale, senior pastor at Central Christian Church. He, along with a number of others in the church, has background in theatre and ties to Anderson’s Mainstage Theatre.
“It’s obviously an outpouring of who I am with my love of theatre and the church,” said Vale, who started the program in 2009. The two-week evening camp centers on a theatrical production and engages kids in drama, music, dancing, set and costume design. Along the way, they pick up on Bible precepts, history and culture. The program is known as C.A.M.P., an acronym for Central Art, Music and Parables.
Kids from second grade through high school participate for the entire two weeks, which started July 22. Kids ages 4 through first grade participate for the second week only, starting July 29.
Each year, the arts camp selects a play that makes a good fit with the church while being fun for the kids.
“We try to pick one with spiritual stability,” said Vale. He especially likes “Fiddler on the Roof, Jr.” In his career as a thespian, Vale has played almost every male role in the play.
“It’s good entertainment. Great music. Great story. And just enough foreign that it’s interesting,” said Vale. He noted, “It’s great for kids, too.”
Jayna Friend is directing this year’s C.A.M.P. production. Friend is no stranger to theatre. She has been involved with Mainstage for more than 20 years, including directing productions there. She’s enthusiastic about “Fiddler on the Roof, Jr.”
“It’s a great musical and a great story for the church setting,” said Friend. “The kids really are enjoying the songs.” Indeed, this week kids had the opportunity to see what it feels like to look back from the sanctuary at Central Christian’s vaulting nave. They ran through the song “Tradition,” practicing their choreographed steps and hand motions as they sang along, taking their cues from Friend.
“It’s cool. I kind of like just being able to take up a different role than I usually have,” said Kevin Johnsen, 14. He is playing the part of Tevye, and appreciates the cultural richness of the play. “It’s a piece of history. My being in this musical helps me to understand it.”
The kids practice up in the sanctuary, or sit down in a nearby room to read through the script. Downstairs, they enjoy craft activities.
“Everything that’s messy. We like messy things,” said Annette Herbert who oversees the arts and crafts, along with several helpers.
Shyanne Watson, 8, had a paper plate full of beads.
“We’re mod-podging them to keep them shiny,” said Watson. “We’re going to make bracelets.” They’ll also be making prayer shawls and head coverings for use in the play.
There’s also time to focus on Bible stories. Vale said “Fiddler on the Roof, Jr.” presents the opportunity to explore the Old Testament, the history of the Jewish people, and topics like the Sabbath.
“We try to combine a lot of different elements to it,” said Vale. It’s clear the kids are picking up on it.
“We’re learning about their traditions,” said Iain Fisher, 9. He also observed, “You can’t fiddle on the roof good.”
The two-week camp culminates with a performance at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 3. The performance is open to the public.
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If you go What: "Fiddler on the Roof, Jr." Where: Central Christian Church, 923 Jackson Street, Anderson When: Saturday, August 3, 7 p.m. Admission: Free More info: Check out www.central-christian-church.com or call 643-6957.