Friday, December 21, 2007

La Natividad: Year 2

Last year, I wrote about participating in La Natividad, the Christmas show of In the Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theater. This year, I am reprising my role as the Star of the East. The critics have been generous: "Brilliant!" "A leading role." "A rising star." "If you're wise, you'll go see it, too."

We're doing six shows this year -- all sold out before Dec. 1 -- after so many people were disappointed that they couldn't get into last year's. It is essentially the same show as last year, with the addition of one more stop on the Posada: Just after leaving the theater on our way to St. Paul's, José goes to the door of a neighbor of the theater to ask for shelter as the choir (and audience) sings the Posada song. She comes out and in her best old lady scolding voice says "No! No! I haven't any room" as a choir member sings (in English), "You cannot stay here, this is not an inn. There is no room, your story is thin. You will rob me, then you'll run away. You cannot stay here. Go away, go away, go away!"

The most touching part for me happens at St. Paul's when, through a nice bit of stagecraft, the masked
José y Maria are replaced with a flesh-and-blood couple holding a real baby. The switcheroo can't be seen by the audience until the right moment when the adoring animals and wise men part, and when they realize what's happened and see the living actors and baby there's a spontaneous "ohhhh" that fills the church. I tear up every time. I realized tonight that this is what happens whenever we are able to break through the masquerade of religion and illusion and encounter the Living God on the other side.

We have one more show tomorrow (Dec. 22), and then we're done. I've gotten to know some of the other performers better, having so many more times to hang around together.

There are some very nice photos here. (This is to the Star Tribune's site and I don't know how long this link will work.)

I hope everyone reading this will have a happy Christmas.

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