IM this article to a friend!

December 7, 2002

'Silent Night' one night only

From: Clarksville Leaf Chronicle, TN - 07 Dec 2002

Story about values unfolds within play

The Leaf-Chronicle

Sunday night, don't miss "A Silent Night" of a different sort than you are accustomed. This "Silent Night" is truly silent.

In the play, "A Silent Night," written by local author Teri Crippen, the star character is Grace, a deaf girl who is unable to speak. You will get chills and probably well up with tears as you watch 10-year-old Brianna Fuller play Grace with simple beauty that is fitting a child but also suggestive of a wisdom that transcends age.

The play, which is being performed at St. Bethlehem United Methodist Church for one night only, is about a young girl's dreams and her connection with God.

"All of her young life at the church she wanted to play the part of Mary in the Christmas play," Teri said.

Every year, Grace watched the girl chosen to play Mary carefully, thinking of the subtle ways she herself would play the part differently. The year that Grace is finally old enough to audition, she pins her hopes on winning the part despite her disability.

When the director, Ms. Primrose (Callie Riggins) hands out the role assignments, not only does Grace not get the part of Mary, she gets no part at all. Ms. Primrose has forgotten about the girl entirely. Because she can't simply stick Grace in the choir with the other children who don't have acting roles, she decides to make Grace her personal helper, naming her assistant manager of the play.

Grace is crushed. Her parents had expected she wouldn't get the role, and had been wondering how they would console their daughter when the time came.

Julie Hensley is a sign language interpreter. In addition to translating the entire performance into sign language, Hensley plays Grace's mother, Mrs. Williams. The singers share their gift to God through singing and the actors through acting. Grace is very disappointed that, unlike the other children, she will not be able to share her gift. Her mother gently tells Grace that God will show her the way to share the gifts he has given her.

Early in the play comes one of its most beautiful moments, when Kaitlyn Keen, as Grace's imaginary vision of Mary, signs the song "Breath of Heaven" alongside Grace. Here, Brianna Fuller, who is a dancer, shines. She delivers the song in sign language with such grace that her method of communicating ceases to look like a disability. Instead, it becomes a lovely dance.

Relying on the strength of a touching, well-written story, "A Silent Night" is also full of funny moments.

Katie Wells, 9, plays Jessica, an egotistical little girl who feels sure she should get the best part in the play because she is the oldest in the group of children.

"It was pretty funny" playing the brat of the play, Katie said.

Her brother, Patrick Wells, 10, said the part wasn't a stretch for his sister, but Teri set him straight.

"There's not a stuck-up bone in Katie's body," Teri laughed.

Patrick plays the small but hilarious part of delivery boy from Better Late than Never Shipping. He has the unenviable job of reporting to an already-stressed-out Ms. Primrose that the costumes for her play are stuck in a blizzard in Fargo, North Dakota.

Brianna, who is not hearing impaired, had the biggest challenges in preparing for her role in the play, because she had to defeat her natural instincts both to speak and to turn and listen when others speak.

"We were this close to getting her ear plugs," Teri said about the young actress. "She would look when people talked. But she's good about not reacting now."

The author talked with the kids about what the play means.

"Grace is trying to share her gift with other people, but it's hard because she's deaf," Brianna said.

Katie said it was a challenge working on the play within the play. She said it would be cool if she had a friend who was really hearing impaired, but she might feel sorry for her since she couldn't hear or talk like the rest of the kids.

Teri reminded Katie that in the play, Grace is "talking pretty loud, even though she's not talking."

"She shows strong feeling in what she's doing," Katie agreed.

The stars of the play are all children who attend St. Bethlehem United Methodist Church, ages 5-13. Teri said she's pleased with the work they have done to bring her play to life.

Jon Bradley Crowe plays Adam, who gets the part of Joseph in the play within the play. Sean Crowe plays TJ and a wise man. Zachary O'Dell and Austin Robertson also play wise men. The younger brother of Patrick and Katie, Brandon Wells is sweetly funny as a shepherd. Brittany Neal, Kenny Guertin, Allison Robertson, Morgan Hazelton, Luke Hazelton, Ashley Smothers, Jessie Smothers, Kandace Keen and Sammie Davis are angels in the play, while Tracy Gibbs is the Angel of the Lord. Montgomery Central High School Key Club Members serve as stage hands.

The author's sister, Tamara Crippen, is the director and choreographer of the production. She is also the narrator. The two sisters have teamed up on productions in the past, but Teri, who is relatively new to writing, said she is particularly excited about "A Silent Night."

"I think it's a beautiful story. I think people are going to be touched by it," she said. "It's about the true meaning of Christmas and how everybody has something to offer. It's about giving your gift to Jesus in some way."

Stacy Smith Segovia can be reached at 245-0237 or by e-mail at


# WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday

# WHERE: St. Bethlehem United Methodist Church, 2201 Old Russellville Pike

# COST: Free

# CALL: 647-5126 or 648-3466

Copyright ©2002 The Leaf-Chronicle. All rights reserved.