The Shepherds Play is being performed again this year by the Life Sharing communities of our Monadnock region. With each performance a it is clear that the actors and their assistants are truly touched by the spirit of this Holy season.
There are so many reasons for this. One of the truest meanings of Christmas is found in the love that is given to those who live in the life sharing communities. The residents in these family homes are always excited to perform the play for our community. This year's cast is made up from those who live at Plowshare Farm, Maple Hill, Tobias and Four Winds communities. Director Kimberly Dorn Bay welcomes us each year to witness the wonder of the season as told in this production.
The play itself is an abridged version of the Oberuferer Shepherd's Play which is a medieval religious mystery play. The roles in this play were passed down from generation to generation and involve the simple story of shepherds coming together to follow that all shining star.
Finding no room in any of the inns Mary and Joseph are given rest in a small stable with friendly animals to help keep them warm.
Later in the play as the Angel Gabriel slowly lowers a star on a stick over Mary, Mary slowly forms a cradle with her arms and we know that the Christ Child has been born. Silence at this point in the play is overwhelming and the moment is truly devine.
Children in our audience love to see the shepherds arrive and enjoy their antics and comical performance. Coupled with this is the touching moment when the shepherds give their precious gifts to the Christ Child.
As a bit of background the Oberofer Shepherd's Play: As early as the 16th Century a group of German people migrated to the little ilsnad of Oberufer on the Danube close to the frontiers of Austria and Hungary. With them they carried a cycle of religious plays which had been handed down by oral tradition through the generations. The plays were preserved unaltered to the method of acting and the words and songs and in the 50s and 60s Karl Julius Schroer a professor of folklore transcribed the dialogue from the region's farmers who were the actors.
The Shepherds play is performed each year in many languages in many schools and churches worldwide. Audiences are given song sheets to participate in the opening and closing songs and help to lead the actors to and from the stage.
Our local church Union Congregational has the pleasure of hosting the Life Sharing Communities as they perform the play each year. Shepherds are also evident in the form of the helpers who assist the performers in their roles. Quietly holding, leading , singing and speaking with and for the actors, are directors and assistants who dress in subtle costumes and are more of a background than performers. The roles given to the actors from these communities are taken seriously, performed with love and to this day bestow a special blessing upon all who witness the play.