One of the first things I learned about working in the professional regional theater is that Christmas comes early. While everyone else is still thinking about what to wear for Halloween, I’ve spent most of the last 15 Octobers of my life either in Victorian England with some guy named Scrooge, at Macy’s dressed up as an elf, searching a magical land for The Snow Queen or with the fine folks at a small Church in a fictional town someplace in the mountains I am proud to call home.
I have been fascinated by the English Mystery Cycles since I first discovered them in 1995. My first attempt to adapt them for the Appalachian region was in a play called Wondrous Love. It was long and unwieldy, and after the first and only reading of the play, I thought I was through with the Mystery Cycle.
But the Mystery Plays, full of faith and majesty, have stayed with me. The language, rich with alliteration and surprisingly real, has shaped all my subsequent writing. But I knew I wanted to do more with them than simply restage them. I had to find a way to make the plays my own with a framework allowing us to know the people doing the plays. The church and the congregation I imagined was a fantasy of sorts. It was the church I would like to stumble into on a winter’s evening. A spirit filled place, where everyone, wounded somehow, can be healed. And where everyone is accepted, believer or not, into a family. It gives me great joy to stumble into that church again, to find my old friends waiting, as joyous as ever with stories to tell.
Throughout the writing of the play, I thought a lot about my Aunt Shirley who decided in the mid-nineties that she would write and stage her own Christmas play in her basement. The cast was comprised of my family (all but me making their stage debut) and a few folks from her church. It was a three-year experiment in theatrical folk art. Every minute was crafted by Aunt Shirley with absolute love for the story she had to tell. And every year, there came a moment when the play transcended the basement of that 60s ranch house to become something bigger −something made out of faith. I imagine that moment happened sometimes, too, as the pageant wagons rolled through streets of medieval York and the fishmongers and shipwrights and carpenters performed their plays to celebrate their spirit. And it’s that moment I’ve come searching for again in this blending of Bible stories, medieval plays and contemporary Appalachia.
We’re thrilled to invite you back to the Open Heart Fellowship.