Stage Door News

St. Catharines: Carousel Players celebrate their 50th anniversary with “The Velveteen Rabbit”

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Even as adults far removed from their days as a child, most people have fond memories of a special stuffed animal.

For Lena Maripuu, one of those memories came roaring back to life as she rehearsed for Carousel Players’ newest performance, The Velveteen Rabbit. As a child, Maripuu and her twin sister would play imaginative games outside with their stuffed animals.

“There's actually a moment in the show where B, my character, loses the Velveteen Rabbit and can't find the Velveteen Rabbit,” she said. “And I remember during one rehearsal I just dropped into that memory and fully got emotional because the love for a toy is so strong and I just really felt it in one rehearsal.”

Like so many groups and organizations, Carousel Players was upended for two years as the COVID-19 pandemic affected all aspects of life. But now with restrictions eased, the youth theatre company is returning to in-person performances just in time for its 50th anniversary. And highlighting that anniversary is a touring production of the childhood classic, which started this week and will continue with performances across the region into April.

“It's just been such a joy to be doing what we all love again in person,” said Monica Dufault, artistic director at Carousel Players. “I think we don't know how much you miss it until you get to do it again.”

In some ways the pandemic made producing The Velveteen Rabbit easier, especially writing the adaptation. Maripuu was part of a four-person team that adapted the classic children’s book, working with Jocelyn Adema, Reanne Spitzer and Annie Tuma. Having such a long time to work on the play — nearly four years, thanks to COVID delays — coupled with having to meet over Zoom made the writing process different.

Luckily the quartet of writers said they have a great working relationship, and Zoom sessions would be equal parts work and chatting or catching up.

“We're really good at the give-and-take. One person might lead, like editing or working on lyrics or music or dramaturgy. And then the rest of us will follow,” said Maripuu.

And those involved said the story, which follows a young who initially prefers high-tech toys but eventually develops an inseparable bond with “Bunny,” has taken on special meaning as we all navigate this uncertain pandemic.

“There has been so much isolation and it's been really hard for kids to find that connection and friendships. I think this story really speaks to that,” said Adema.

For more information on the play, ticket information, visit It’s geared towards children aged four to eight.


April 1: Darlene Ryan Centre, Thorold — 6:30 p.m.

April 2: Port Colborne High School, Port Colborne — 2 p.m.

April 3: Ball’s Falls Conservation Area, Lincoln — 2 p.m.

April 8: MacBain Centre, Niagara Falls — 2 p.m.

April 9: Welland Community Wellness Complex, Welland — 2 p.m.

April 10: Grimsby Secondary School, Grimsby — 2 p.m.


April 16: Meridian Community Centre, Fonthill — 12 p.m.

April 16: FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, St. Catharines — 4 p.m.

April 17: Sanctuary for the Performing Arts, Fort Erie — 2 p.m.

April 18: West Lincoln Agricultural Centre and Fairgrounds, West Lincoln — 1 p.m.

By Luke Edwards for