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One Candle Productions welcomes Christmas with nativity play

More than 70 children play roles in A Christmas Karol: Karol Wojtyla 2022 Nativity Play
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A trio of sheep and lambs take a rehearsal break during A Christmas Karol: Karol 2022 Wojtyla Nativity Play taking place at the Arden Theatre on Sunday, Dec. 18. SUPPLIED

A nativity play reenacts the story of Jesus Christ’s birth. In its quest to spread the message of love, hope and peace, One Candle Productions also digs into the biblical stories of the infant’s ancestors. 

A Christmas Karol: Karol Wojtyla 2022 Nativity Play is the brainchild of Mena Jewell. Fascinated by biblical stories, Jewell also directed the 2014 Fringe production of Tobit, a devout and wealthy Israelite living among captives deported to Nineveh. He is eventually blinded and asks the Lord to let him die. 

She first mounted A Christmas Karol: Karol Wojtyla Nativity Play in 2007; this will be her 16th consecutive production. It runs Dec. 18 at the Arden Theatre. 

“I had read the biography of Pope John Paul. In it, whenever he went to a new parish, he would start a play. When he was young, he was an actor, and the culture in Poland was such that every parish organized a play. I thought that sounded lovely. When I read the gospel of Luke, I realized it wouldn’t be a stretch to take the lines and put it into a play,” said Jewell. 

Some of her friends joked the production was more of a prequel to the nativity as the script starts with the appearance of Angel Gabriel to Zachariah, an Abijdan priest. Gabriel announces to Zachariah he will become the father of John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin. 

The one-hour play continues with Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, her cousin and John the Baptist’s mother, as well as the Angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary announcing Jesus' upcoming birth. 

“There’s all this great stuff in the play before the birth of Jesus we tend to forget,” Jewell said. “It’s timeless. Here you have young children saying scriptural lines. It’s very powerful and the significance comes through.” 

The play is stacked with a young cast. More than 70 children and youth from newborns to 17-year-olds are cast as biblical characters as well as manger animals – sheep, lambs and donkeys. 

“The kids who play the sheep, lambs and donkeys always steal the show.” 

Several decades ago nativity plays were staples of both churches and schools. Now the tradition has all but died out. 

“There are so many things you can do with this play. I love the idea of nativity plays preserving the true meaning of Christmas. There are so many Christmas traditions – the tree, the wreath, the gift-giving, but this is my favourite. Even if you go to church, you won’t hear the full story. Here you do. And nativity plays are a really old tradition that goes back to St. Francis of Assisi in the 1200s.” 

The production’s sets are still the humble pieces used in the inaugural 2007 performance, ranging from  pillars, rocks and an altar, to artificial trees and a manger. 

“We try to keep it simple and rely on the technicians to help with lighting, as it creates so much ambience.” 

A Christmas Karol: Karol Wojtyla 2022 Nativity Play runs Sunday, Dec. 18 at 2 p.m. in the Arden Theatre, 5 St. Anne Street. Tickets are adults $15, children $10. Call 780-459-1542 or online at tickets.stalbert.ca. 


Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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