December 14, 2007

Teatro Mascara Magica’s “La Pastorela de la Raza” Brings Humor and Inspiration to the REP

Firefighters and their families will be honored, admitted for free to December 19 performance

Yelling “fire” in a crowded theater is immoral, which is exactly why Lucifer might do just such a thing.

Teatro Mascara Magica has a plan. It is inviting San Diego County and Baja California firefighters and their families to see “La Pastorela de la Raza” for free.

“We wanted to say thank you to all the region’s firefighters for everything they did to save lives and homes during the October wild fires,” said Max Branscomb, the playwright.

Firefighters and their immediate families will be admitted for free to the December 19 performance of TMM’s popular holiday musical-comedy at the San Diego REP’s Lyceum Theatre in Horton Plaza. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m.

Teatro Mascara Magica’s award-winning pastorela is celebrating its 17th anniversary this year and the Mexican-inspired Christmas musical is trendier than ever. Where else would theatre lovers see Michael the Archangel, Lucifer, Elvis, Shrek, the salty chef from “Hell’s Kitchen” and LaDainian Tom-linson share the stage?

“La Pastorela de la Raza” is TMM’s newest twist on the traditional story of the shepherds’ journey to Bethlehem to witness the first Christmas. Called to action by Archangels Michael and Gabriel, the shepherds face temptation and danger from evil Lucifer and his nasty minions. The bilingual script is primarily in English with beautiful Christmas carols sung in Spanish.

Written by Max Branscomb and directed by William Virchis, “La Pastorela de la Raza” runs December 18-30 at the Lyceum Theater downtown. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students and groups of 10 or more, and $7 for children under 12. Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18-19, 27-30. Matinees Dec. 29 and 30 are at 2 p.m.

Cast members include some of San Diego’s most popular actors. Joey Molina is Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness. Dave Rivas and Rhys Green are the devils Satan and Moloch. Television star Willie Green plays Michael the Archangel.

The pastorela is a folk art form that dates back to the beginning of Christianity. During the second century early Christians in hiding acted out the Christmas story to hand it down in the oral tradition. It survived as an underground movement until the Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity.

The Spaniards brought it to Mexico in the 1540s and it became that country’s most popular form of theatre. More than 2,500 unique versions of the story are produced south of the border. Almost every city, town and village in Mexico has its own version of the pastorela.

A pastorela is the tale of the shepherd’s journey to Bethlehem to witness the first Christmas. It is the B-plot of the nativity, a journey fraught with temptations, distractions and mortal peril as the devils try to prevent the shepherds from reaching their special destination. It is a traditional morality play full of choices and introspection, but presented with levity, music, beautiful costumes and poetic dialogue. Pastorelas are written entirely in verse, like a Yuletide Dr. Seuss story.

Teatro Mascara Magica and the Old Globe Theater developed and produced the first English language pastorela in San Diego in 1991 at the Globe. The play appeals to English and Spanish speakers alike. The text is in English and the beautiful Christmas songs are in Spanish.

Branscomb’s devils and angels are masters of disguise who appear throughout the shepherd’s journey as historic and contemporary characters.

Teatro Mascara Magica was founded in 1989 by Virchis and UCSD professor Dr. Jorge Huerta to increase the production of multicultural theatre and to provide professional theatrical opportunities to underrepresented segments of the population. Another mission of the Teatro is to subsidize ticket prices to make live theatre affordable to families and less affluent persons. The company is a national leader in multicultural theatre that has been honored by the National Endowment for the Arts as well as numerous human rights organizations. TMM and La Pastorela were recipients of the 2004 Multicultural Heritage Award for leadership in multicultural theatre.

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