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Saffell Street teacher receives $1,000 grant for holiday musical

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By Meaghan Downs

Meredith Lewis, music specialist and instructor at Saffell Street, holds up a large, gray felt pigeon wing as large as her arm.
Saffell Street’s upcoming musical production “Yes, Virginia the Musical” opens on a scene of New York City, circa 1897.
So naturally, children will be dressed as city pigeons, Lewis says.
Of course, Santa Claus will make an appearance.
Eight Saffell Street Santas from all around the world will be singing and dancing, in fact.  
Thanks to a one-time $1,000 grant opportunity from Macy’s, Inc., Saffell Street will be one of 12 schools in Kentucky performing the “Yes, Virginia” production, according to Macy’s website dedicated to information about the musical.
About 108 schools across the country received $100,000 in production grants to perform the “Yes, Virginia” show, according to the musical’s website.
Lewis said her annual budget is $1 per student, or about $500. Receiving the grant for “Yes, Virginia” means she didn’t need to dig into the school funds, she said.
Macy’s provided royalty-free original scripts and musical tracks; royalties can get expensive, Lewis said.
The company also provided a link to an online “toolkit” with suggestions for creating costumes and staging the play for local performances.
“It was just a wealth of resources,” Lewis said.
After learning about the grant opportunity through a resource instructor at the middle school, Lewis said she applied for the grant in August, learned she won the grant in September and received the funds by the district’s October fall break.  
“Yes, Virginia the Musical” is an original play based on the story of a New York Sun newspaper editor’s response to an 1897 editorial written by Virginia, an 8-year-old girl wondering about Santa Claus’s existence.
The plot unfolds from the perspective of Virginia’s librarian, Lewis said, who tells the children in the musical that Santa is different to everyone.
As well as featuring world Santas from Armenia to Hawaii to France, the musical also touches on the subject of bullying, which is a topic many Anderson students will be familiar with, Lewis said.
“I really think that will hit kids that are listening to the show,” Lewis said, explaining that Virginia is teased by a classmate named Charlotte in the musical. “That’s something that kids of all ages are dealing with.”
Fifty to 60 Saffell Street students from grades 3-5 will be performing in the musical. Two Saffell Street choir and drama groups, the Saffell Singers and Saffell Players, fill roles as soloists.
“It will be a full blown production,” Lewis said.
High school students taking Family and Consumer Science courses assisted with creating costumes and set pieces, she said. Art students from the middle school, Lewis said, have also helped in furnished flat backdrop pieces.
Lewis said she’s amazed as to how many people, from students and staff at other schools to community members, collaborated on the production.
“And to see the kids be so excited,” Lewis said. “Some of these roles are hard.”
She’d like to see the gym filled next Thursday, when Saffell Street students perform the musical for the first time.
 “The talent of these kids pulling off these leads is amazing,” Lewis said.

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Want to go?
What: Saffell Street Elementary’s production of “Yes, Virginia the Musical”
When: Thursday, Dec. 13, performances at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. The show will run for about an hour, Lewis said.
Where: Saffell Street Elementary gym
Cost: Free
The musical is open to the public.
For more information about the musical and to listen to the soundtrack, visit the musical’s website at https://yesvirginiamusical.com.

Help Make-A-Wish foundation
with Santa letters
Macy’s, the department store responsible for instructor Meredith Lewis’ $1,000 grant for her Christmas production, will be donating $1 for every Santa letter it receives this holiday season, Lewis said.
Lewis asks that those attending the “Yes, Virginia the Musical” to bring Santa letters to performances on Dec. 13 to help the Make-A-Wish foundation, a charitable organization that grants once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for children with life-threatening medical conditions.
Volunteers will be available at the door to receive Santa letters, Lewis said.
The high school FCCLA will also be making and accepting Santa letters at its Christmas camp on Dec. 15, Lewis said.

‘Yes, Virginia’ to be performed
at Lexington’s Fayette Mall
Anderson County students were also invited by Macy’s to perform selections from the musical at Lexington’s Fayette Mall on Friday, Dec. 14.
The students will be performing two 20-minute shows in the Macy’s department store at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.