Learn About/Subscribe:
Christian Union
Christian Union: The Magazine
July 8, 2022

CU Gloria Members Produce DaVinci Play

By Anne Kerhoulas, Staff Writer

“The arts are a powerful tool,” reflects Harvard rising junior LyLena Estabine. They have the power to cross boundary lines, reach into the emotional and spiritual core of a person and leave them changed.

The arts, as Estabine argues, are the best, and most underutilized outreach method for Christians because they provide a bridge between those of faith and those who are without. 

Estabine is building that bridge.

1 A Leonardo Image 2.pngNew Song Theatricals debuted this spring with Painted, a musical about the life of Leonardo DaVinci.

Last summer, Estabine felt the Lord leading her to start a theater organization on campus that would produce original Chrisitan work. After prayerfully seeking wisdom and guidance, she felt confirmed in the call and prayed for people to join her in the vision. Two fellow CU Gloria members heard of Estabine’s plans and immediately wanted to be involved. Scott Arbery ’24 and Autumn Dorsey ’24 came on board as the orchestrator and music director, respectively. And New Song Theatricals was born. 

Though Estabine knew that establishing the organization would have its obstacles, it was her conviction that the arts—especially musical theater—could be a source of evangelism; Christian art that was created not just for believers to enjoy, but to invite non-Christians into the most beautiful story ever told. 

Estabine has found that the musical theater realm is often occupied by individuals who have had negative experiences with the church and given up on their faith. “In musical theater, in particular, it is very difficult to work with Christian themes because of the church hurt within the community,” she says. “This makes it very difficult to discuss faith in these contexts.” 

And yet that is exactly where Estabine wants to go—to be a beacon of hope in the midst of brokenness, a voice reminding weary souls of good news, and a healing presence for the wounded: “People can encounter God in the arts in ways that it might be more difficult to encounter in a conversation. Songs help people connect spiritually in ways they might not be able to otherwise.” 

This spring’s production was Painted, a musical about the life of Leonardo DaVinci. Estabine wrote most of the play in high school but never felt like it was finished. Though she was planning on starting something new at Harvard, she sensed the Lord pressing on her to finish Painted. The show ran from April 21-23, offering four performances at Adams Theater. 

RELATED: Want to go deeper in your faith? Click here to receive a free download of Christian Union’s "Seeking God Lifestyle” Bible Course Manual. 

Estabine has been writing songs since childhood, a gift she attributes to God. In her writing process, she is keenly aware of the Lord’s presence and when He is directly inspiring her. 

“There are certain songs that I wrote and there are certain songs that God wrote—I wrote them down, but He gave them to me. I can tell the difference and they sound different as well,” reflects Estabine. “A large part of my journey as an artist has been learning to listen to hear the voice of God in the creative process and rely on Him for inspiration and also realize he is giving me something to steward and shepherd well.” 

Painted pushed her to return to unfinished work, rely on the Lord for provision, and create a production that was faithful to the life of DaVinci—his triumphs and even his sexual struggles. Scott Arbery, who served as the orchestrator, noted that wrestling with how to tell this story faithfully, but with sensitivity and a biblical perspective was one of the most rewarding experiences of the production.

“Through prayer, reading, and listening to mentors, I learned what it means to pursue the truth of God's word while also helping Christianity become a part of more people's lives,” Arberry said.

After a whirlwind first year, New Song Theatricals is excited to return to campus this fall, engage new students, and foster a creative space for Christians to tell their stories through musical theater. 

To learn more about Christian Union's ministry at some of the nation's most influential universities, please click here.