Unwrapping the Story Behind Vespers


Actors perform for the 2022 Vespers. (Photo by Sarah Yeoh)

|December 12 2022| Sarah Yeoh and Noel Beverly

If you had watched Vespers, The Divine Pursuit, on Friday and Saturday night, you would have encountered Valor’s vast array of talents. Watching their well-choreographed dances, special effects, and the storyline was astonishing.

While everyone was excited about the final product, we decided to take a look behind the scenes to discover the true meaning of Vespers and the amount of work Valor Arts put into it.  We interviewed Arie Rignalda, the Director of Arts and Media, and Kurt Muensterman, the Director of Theatre. Arie Rignalda enforced the idea that Vespers is not only about Christmas but the bigger story of Christmas. Kurt Muensterman informed us that Vespers varies from theatre to music, to dance, but ultimately shares the beautiful story of our Savior’s birth. The show excellently played that part while telling the story from the beginning of creation to the ending of the resurrection.

Arie Rignalda

What is the show about?

“So, valor Vespers this year is called The Divine Pursuit. And it’s really this idea that from the beginning of time, from when we first felt God has been calling us back to him, pursuing us, sent his son as our savior so that he might die, be resurrected, take on our sins, and that we might have eternal life through him. So it’s Christmas, but it’s also the bigger story of Christmas.”

How much effort does it take?

“We work collaboratively as an Arts team, so all of the faculty contribute their ideas. It’s kind of a co-writing process, It takes a lot of time, and then there’s quite a bit of time in class preparing. But the journey together is always fun.”

How does casting work?

“So with casting, it varies, because a lot of the contributions are by class, so the entire class is involved. But in some cases, like when we needed specific actors, Mr. Munsterman, for example, might approach some kids that he felt were just really particularly strong for that role. We did not do auditions this year.”

What is the writing process?

“So in terms of the writing process, the arts team gets together and we talk about just what kind of experience we want to create. And as we refine that, different faculty come up with different ideas, and we typically kind of marry that together into one master script. That’s what you’ll get to see this year.”

Who’s in charge of the set and costume and what inspires them?

“So the cost of shipping for the show is a little bit unique in that there is a lot of just kind of winter wear, cozy nice. We’re actually asking kids to, uh, bring like two or three options for their costumes within a specific color scheme. But then there are some unique costumes. For example, in dance, we have this beautiful gold dress with a gold skirt that literally goes all the way across the stage and into the wings. It’s super cool. So it’s a total mix.”

Is there anything else you want to add?

“I would love to encourage you to just join us for Vespers. It is the Valor community celebration of Christ at Christmas. It’s always a great experience. It will prepare your heart for the Christmas season and you will love it. So we hope to see you there.”

Kurt Muensterman:

So how much effort does it take to prepare a show like this?

“You know, most shows take a ton of effort, but this one, a lot of it was prepared in the classroom. So it came naturally from the classroom as a co-curricular endeavor.”

How do you cast the characters?

“We look for actors that we think can really portray what we’re trying to explore. It’s not really a play, it’s more about the music and the dance. So we’re really leaning on who’s in the classroom that we can use, and we do pull in a couple of actors and try to find those ones that can truly express the depth and the beauty of the story.”

What is the writing process like?

“The writing process is actually a lot of fun. Mr. Alda spent a lot of time thinking through the process and you know, consulting with a few of us as you move along, but it’s just looking at the story that’s already been told, the one that God told and trying to make it come through in a way that this particular modern audience will love and understand and enjoy.”

Who’s in charge of the set and costume and what inspires them to create them?

“The set and costumes and all the technical elements are a real collaborative effort. Taran Lancaster is doing a lot of our production end of things right now, and she was in charge of costumes and did a beautiful job kind of pulling things together. The set was designed and built by several people working together including Mr. Case, Mr. Ostrom, and Mr. West. So there’s a lot of people involved.”

Is there anything you want to say in general?

“You know, vespers is always a beautiful show and it’s different every year. It always has a different theme, and sometimes it’s theater, sometimes it’s just music and dance, and this one just tells the story from the beginning, the story that God wants, wanted us to have, most of all.”

Vespers is a visually outstanding Valor Christmas tradition. Students, teachers, and staff all contribute to the production of the show which brings out the true meaning of Christmas.