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Saturday August 19th 2017

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Migration-Themed Nativity Play Reaches New Audiences, but Loses ‘Joseph’ to Deportation

By Linda Hartke

Reprinted through the Courtesy of and Permission by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

It’s great to use this article to lift up the voices of creative people who “Stand for Welcome.” I’d like to introduce an interview by Luke Telander, LIRS Program Associate for Outreach, with Pastor Patrick Cabello Hansel of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Minneapolis. The interview captures an amazing creative retelling of the Nativity, and the heartbreaking way in which modern life has intruded on the ancient story.

The Nativity story has been retold in a myriad of ways. It has been adapted to the stage and the screen. It has been painted by everyone from Leonardo Da Vinci to Paul Gaugin. It has been translated into Spanish and Mandarin, Tagalog and French. In the Phillips Community of Minneapolis, however, the age-old story was told in a Completely unique way, and with particular poignancy, given today’s immigration climate.

La Natividad was a collaboration between the In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Mpls. The event is an interactive bilingual theater experience that tells the Nativity story through the eyes of an immigrant family in America.

Participants follow Maria and Jose through a portion of the neighborhood as they recount the story of Jesus’ birth. By melding the traditional narrative with current immigration issues, new light is shed on both stories.

The role of King Herod takes on new meaning as he shouts anti-immigrant propaganda about border security and job stealing, and the immigrant experience is humanized as we see just how much 14-year old Mary, or Maria in this performance, has in common with current migrants. The result is a powerful message told creatively through colorful life-size puppetry and participatory theater.

Linda Hartke is Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service President and CEO.

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