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Sunday July 23rd 2017

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La Natividad Returns to Minneapolis An urgent plea to open homes, cities, the world, and hearts with love.

BY STEPHANIE ROGERS

This Holiday season, In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre and St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church reprise the popular, bilingual La Natividad performance and celebration with performances from December 15 to December 22. It’s an event that has become a tradition for many in the neighborhood, and is more relevant than ever as we look towards 2017.

La Natividad is a modern-day retelling of the Nativity story, brought to life on the streets of Minneapolis. Drawing on the theatre’s long history of collaboration, socially relevant theatre, and community participation, La Natividad frames the Christmas story within the context of a Mexican-American Immigrant experience. The pregnant María and her fiancé José (portrayed by both live actors and giant puppets) lead the audience along 15th Avenue in South Minneapolis. Who will offer them shelter?

In a traditional Mexican Posada, actors portraying Mary and Joseph guide a procession of neighbors as they travel from house to house, looking for shelter. They are repeatedly turned away, until a designated person, playing the sympathetic innkeeper of the nativity story, takes the couple in and the community shares in a feast celebration. La Natividad expands the traditional music and turns the journey into a full puppet play, in which each stop is a scene from the biblical story as told by the gospels of Luke and Matthew. Teams of talented puppeteers enact the emotion in each hand-made puppet, animating the larger-than-life story that ends with a celebration and food for all.

This performance wouldn’t be possible without our neighbors in Phillips and the rest of South Minneapolis. Las Mojarras Restaurant is supporting this production by serving as one of the sites on the journey, and many in the audience will recognize friends and community members on stage and in the choir.

The play is performed in both English and Spanish. Patrick Cabello Hansel, co-pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, notes that “La Natividad has brought the Anglos and Latinos in our congregation together around a story we share… we are intentional to be a safe place, a place of refuge, where everyone knows they are welcome.”

Director Sandy Spieler agrees:

“I grew up with The Biblical Christmas Story as an instruction of opening one’s home and one’s heart with love for the world. With their urgent need, Mary and Joseph knocked on the doors of a city seeking shelter until a stranger found a place for them. In our present day, this has direct parallel to the many people around the world who are receiving immigrants in need of shelter.  The Christmas story reveals the hierarchies and edicts of government, and the communities that shelter and nurture love against all odds. We enact all of this in La Natividad.”

The choice of the actors themselves continues this theme; the roles of María, José, and many other characters are played by Dreamers (the U.S. born children of immigrants) and their parents. Tickets are $23 for adults and $17 for children, students, seniors, and groups of 10 or more. No one will be turned away for lack of funds, and there are opportunities for community-members to volunteer in exchange for tickets. To purchase tickets, visit http://lana2016.brownpapertickets.com or call 612-721-2535. To volunteer and receive free tickets in exchange, please e-mail volunteer@hobt.org.

Stephanie Rogers is the HOBT Marketing Coordinator

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