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La Pastorela 2013: A Sheperdela's Storia

Time again for the shepherds' quest for the Christ child, with old songs and new jokes

By Robert Faires, December 13, 2013, Arts

Those shepherds are on the move again.

As is the case around this time every December – and has been for hundreds of Decembers now – a handful of those herders leave their woolly flocks and go in search of the child whose birth has been foretold by angels. They're not necessarily the sharpest shears in the shed – sometimes they get lost, sometimes they get drunk, they bicker, they snooze, they nearly get led astray by the devil – but they have good hearts, and since St. Michael has their back, they're always guaranteed safe passage to Bethlehem to see the infant Christ.

The shepherds' journey has figured prominently in the Latino celebration of Christmas for centuries, through the pageant La Pastorela, which marries the traditional and contemporary, carols and canciones, an ancient message of love and modern jokes, and the Middle East and local culture. Keeping it part of our town's holiday traditions is the Austin Latino Theater Alliance, which has produced a version of La Pastorela every Christmas since 2004. While the core of the story stays the same from year to year, the show is reinvented each December. The 2013 version, A Sheperdela's Storia, draws on a screenplay by writer/director Luis Valdez, who filmed a 1991 Pastorela with El Teatro Campesino for PBS' Great Performances, but local director Patricio Villarreal Ávila is adding contributions from Austin artists and authors Claudia Montero, Tomas Salas, Marylou Castillo, Marita de la Torre, Christopher Edwards, and Diego Villarreal, with Kiko Villamizar providing live music.

The production runs Dec. 12-22, with a special dinner this Saturday, Dec. 14, 6pm, before the 7:30pm performance. Hors d'oeuvres are provided by the University of Texas Golf Club Chefs and desserts by the Pastry Shop. Visit www.altateatro.com for more information.

You can also find those wandering shepherds at Scottish Rite Theater, which is offering a take on The Second Shepherds' Play, the medieval English version of the Nativity tale, directed by Susan Gayle Todd. And Emilio Portes' 2011 comedy Pastorela, in which one community's tradition of staging La Pastorela is shaken up by a new pastor, will be screened a couple of times in coming weeks. Cine Las Americas will show the film on Sunday, Dec. 15, 4pm, at the Alamo Drafthouse Village, 2700 W. Anderson; and Esquina Tango will show it Friday, Dec. 20, 9pm, at their dance studio, 209 Pedernales. For more information, visit www.cinelasamericas.org and www.esquinatangoaustin.com, respectively.


La Pastorela 2013: A Sheperdela's Storia runs Dec. 12-22, Thursday-Friday, 8pm; Saturday-Sunday, 7pm, at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River. For more information, call 512/537-2582, or visit www.altateatro.com.


The Second Shepherds' Play continues through Dec. 22, Saturday, Dec. 14, 7pm (fundraiser); Sunday, Dec. 15 & 22, 12:30 & 2:30pm; and Saturday, Dec. 21, 11am, 1pm, & 7pm, at the Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W. 18th. For more information, visit www.brownpapertickets.com/event/526293.

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