‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ stars open up about the cuddlier side of childhood

Admit it; the Velveteen Rabbit’s storyline elicits a little clutch of the heart, right? Well, put on your footie pajamas and prepare to feel all the feels with The Marriott Theatre for Young Audience’s fascinating new take on this timeless tale of childhood, imagination and what it truly means to be “real.”

If you go

Runs through August 14, 2016

www.marriotttheatre.com

I spoke with Devin DeSantis, who plays the bunny-toting boy Steve, as well as Dara Cameron (the Velveteen Rabbit, herself) to get the inside scoop on this charming new production–and maybe even figure out why this is the story that makes kids of all ages want to curl up with a blankie.

Did you have a special childhood lovey or favorite toy?

Devin: I had a Teddy Ruxpin that read me stories. I loved him. I also had a Cookie Monster and “Bear“ who was Snuggle, the Downy mascot.

Dara: My older sister carried around my mom’s old nightgown when she was a baby and toddler, so I think by the time I came around, my parents had grown wise to how challenging having to keep track of a “lovey” like that can be! I loved my stuffed mouse, Mumbles, very much though. I think we had multiple Mumbles, just in case …

Most people who grew up with this story had a very real fear of scarlet fever and/or losing their stuffed animals. Did you have any visceral reactions to plot points going into rehearsal?

Dara: The fear of losing a loved one, whether a stuffed animal or family member, is a fear we can all relate to. The story of The Velveteen Rabbit does such a lovely job of celebrating love–whether between a stuffed animal and a child, or between brothers. I’m a sucker for anthropomorphizing animals, so I particularly love the interactions between the Velveteen Rabbit and the real Wild Rabbit that she meets.

Devin: I definitely used to believe (and still kind of do) that my toys had/have feelings. I was always aware of not shoving them in the bottom of a drawer or something. So hearing the Velveteen Rabbit talk about how she never gets played with is always a little sad to me.

What’s one thing audiences might be surprised or excited to know about this staging?

Dara: Our version is a modern take and does a great job of putting an interesting twist on a familiar story … it highlights the tricky relationship that can develop between two brothers, and it explores the idea of what “true love” really means. One thing I love about our play is that the simplicity and sweetness of the story helps kids and families have a jumping off point for talking about love and loss.

Devin: The concept that the actual toys will share the stage with their own “toy spirits” [played by the actors] will be fun for the kids I think. They’ll get to see these iconic toys personified by some incredible personalities.

Why does “The Velveteen Rabbit” never fail to make adults weep like babies?

Devin: I think adults are touched by this story because it reminds them of the simple joys and comfort of being a child, letting your imagination run wild, and of course, we all had that one snuggly toy when we were little that made every nap, every car trip, every doctor visit, every meal and every moment just a little bit better because we could share it with a friend that provided unconditional love and unlimited hugs.

Dara: Well, I know I was a weepy mess when I saw the latest Toy Story movie. There’s something about being allowed to reflect on our childhood with a nostalgic, wistful lens and remember how empowering it was to have a best friend, to belong to someone, to love something so hard. The story reminds us to celebrate the purity and sanctity of love the way we did when we were kids.

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