TRURO, N.S. – Live theatre is always an adventure, especially when the actors are children – even when they’re performing in a church.
When Immaculate Conception Parish staged Journey to Bethlehem last December, the Star of Bethlehem decided to start “directing” some of the Wise Men, and the two-person camel had the audience giggling whenever it tried to move in two directions at the same time.
More than 200 people from the community and beyond turned up to watch the pageant. Director Cassandra Armsworthy says the production was “really well received” with lots of positive comments.
“Almost as soon as it was over, we had people asking us when the next pageant was going to be!”
The hour-long production was so successful they’re relaunching it this year on Sunday, Dec. 16. It’s a project organized by the church’s Family Dynamics group, led by Donna Grace and her husband, Dale.
“The whole goal of the pageant is to bring families of the Catholic faith together for fellowship and faith development, and that’s exactly what it’s been doing,” says Grace. “We have nearly 30 children in the show, and we’re getting together every Sunday evening– along with many of the parents – which is what Family Dynamics is all about.”
The cast members range from three to 12 years old, and they’ve been rehearsing together for at least 90 minutes a week. Everyone who wanted to participate was awarded a role.
“They’re so enthusiastic and working very hard,” says Armsworthy, who has a background in theatre. “Some of these children are very young, but they’re rising to the challenge no matter what we ask of them.”
Quite a few of the actors aren’t old enough to be able to read the script, but Armsworthy says the older ones are quick to jump in and help them.
“The older children will stand over the shoulders of the younger ones and whisper their lines until they memorize them,” says Armsworthy.
She says working on the pageant has been a great way to help the children go beyond their catechism curriculum and understand the Christmas story on a deeper level.
“It makes it come to life for them,” says Grace. “It helps them to understand the story and make it real in their life.”
Armsworthy says it’s heartwarming to see the beaming faces peeking out of costumes as the children step up to the microphones for their big moment.
“For many of these kids, it’s their first time performing in anything, so they’re very excited,” says Armsworthy. “It doesn’t matter if they have two lines or 20 lines. They’re just so happy and proud to be out there.”
After the play wraps up, the children lead the way into Campbell Hall for a rousing birthday party for Jesus – with birthday cake, of course.
“It’s a great chance for everyone to come together, and there’s such a sense of community,” says Armsworthy. “We have hot chocolate and coffee and sweets, a bake sale, and a Bethlehem background for parents to take photos of their children in their costumes.”
Tickets to Journey to Bethlehem are $5 each and are available at Immaculate Conception or by calling 902-890-4824. Everyone is welcome to attend, and Grace says the Dec. 16 date is perfect timing for getting people in the festive spirit.
“It’s a nice break to sit back and remember what the Christmas story is all about, and have that opportunity to really connect with it.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Journey to Bethlehem
WHEN: Sunday, Dec. 16 at 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Immaculate Conception Catholic Church (669 Prince St., Truro)
TICKETS: $5 each, available after Sunday mass, at MacQuarries Pharmasave on Esplanade, or at the door the night of the show.