CHRISTMAS NATIVITY PLAY

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 16: Special and Annual Events

CHRISTMAS NATIVITY PLAY 

TAGS: Christmas Nativity Play ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; Christmas ; Nativity ; theater ; Ethel de Long Zande ; Mary Rogers ; Chapel ; play scripts ; theater ; plays ;


The Christmas Nativity Play has been in continuous performance since the first presentation of the Play in the 1920s. It is generally performed the second weekend of December.

Ethel de Long Zande, the author of the original script for the play said the following:

Pine Mountain’s Nativity Play is a compilation of passages of Scripture, hymns and carols, and dialogue partly original and partly inspired by certain old miracle plays, notably the Second Shepherd’s Play from Towneley. This play is echoed in the complaints of the shepherds about their hard lives, and in the offering of gifts to the Christ Child, where not only the sense but the rhythm of the lines is close to the source. This dramatic weaving together of homely talk, stately scripture, and [the] familiar music was made by Ethel de Long Zande, founder, with Katherine Pettit, of the Pine Mountain Settlement School. It has bee performed annuallysincee the school’s founding in 1913.

Although the setting has become more formal, with the building of our stone chapel, the early performances were equally moving. They were staged in “The House in the Woods,” our only gathering place at the time. It was a roof and a floor with only the forest around. The shepherds wore raincoats turned inside out, the prophets and kings, homespun striped blankets. But Mary’s mantle was blue from the first and the babe and manger were real. Our independence of “fotched-on” resources accounts in part for the moving simplicity of the play which the neighborhood, no less than the school  family, cherishes as a traditional rite.  

Evelyn K. Wells

Nativity Play, 1930’s [?]

THE CHRISTMAS NATIVITY PLAY SCRIPT I

The following is a working copy of the Nativity Play script prepared for participating students and community in the 1940s.  Ethel de Long Zande, who was the author of the original script gave a simple telling of the events surrounding the birth of Christ that has not changed in the succeeding scripts. The de Long script of eight pages is elegant in its simple language and ease of presentation and powerful in its minimalism and inclusion of the audience in the telling of the birth of Christ. The fundamental script has not been changed throughout its many annual performances. This early 1930’s copy has a cover with a John Spelman III linoleum block print of the Chapel which signals its printing in the mid to late 1930’s.

nativity_play_cover.jpg

Christmas Nativity Play Script, 1930’s. Cover. nativity_play_cover.jpg

In the late1940’s another play-script booklet was prepared and the drawings of Mary Rogers, a Pine Mountain staff member, were added.

PMSS Christmas Nativity Play Script. 1940’s, with drawings by Mary Rogers – Cover

The CHRISTMAS NATIVITY PLAY SCRIPT II was offered for sale to any who wished to replicate the play for their audiences. It is the same play as represented in the 1930’s play-script but contains an introduction about the origin of the play and the exquisite drawings by Mary Rogers.

christmas_989b

Nativity Play. Interior of Chapel decorated for play with native hemlock and other greens. View toward left chancel. c. 1940s. [christmas_989b.jpg]


CONTENTS

Introduction [nativity_play_intro.jpg]
general suggestions ; setting ; lights ; costumes ;

Page 1 [nativity_play-001.jpg]
Cast of 16 characters ; congregation sings and reads from Scripture ;

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Verses from Scripture are recited ;

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Verses from Scripture are recited ; congregation sings ; The Shepherd Scene begins ;

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The Shepherd Scene : shepherds discuss hard times and the Star and its meaning ;

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The Shepherd Scene ; The shepherds see the Star ; the Angels sing ;

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The Shepherd Scene ; the shepherds leave their flock to visit the Messiah ; The Manger Scene begins ; Mary sings a lullaby ;

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The Manger Scene ; the shepherds bring gifts and kneel before Mary and the baby ; a blind boy’s sight returns after touching the baby ; the Kings sing ; the shepherds leave ;

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The Kings come forward singing and offering gifts ; congregation sings chorus ; a shepherd re-enters with child and mother ; congregation sings ; Simeon prays ; congregation sings, places gifts at manger, and leaves church ;


GALLERY – 1930’s script of NATIVITY PLAY


Nativity Play. Hand-tinted manger scene from the Nativity Play of 1946. Beth LaRue, Roy Banks, Harold Cox, Arch Lewis. nace_1_023a

Nativity Play. Hand-tinted manger scene from the Nativity Play of 1946. Beth LaRue, Roy Banks, Harold Cox, Arch Lewis. [nace_1_023a.jpg]


TRANSCRIPTION (Text has been slightly edited.)

Cover: designed by John Spelman III.  [nativity_play_cover.jpg.]

NATIVITY
PLAY

PINE MOUNTAIN
SETTLEMENT
SCHOOL


Title Page [nativity_play_title.jpg]

N A T I V I T Y  P L A Y
by
Mrs. Ethel deLong Zande

for
Pine Mountain Settlement School


Introduction [nativity_play_intro.jpg]

N A T I V I TY  P L A Y

PINE MOUNTAIN SETTLEMENT SCHOOL

GENERAL SUGGESTIONS:

All carols and the few verses from Luke are memorized by the entire school, so no books are used and no announcements are read.

SETTING: – Great hemlock trees within the chancel and smaller ones entirely in front form the setting for the scene of the Nativity. The shepherds are outside the chancel.

LIGHTS: – There are no lights at the beginning except candles In each window and one light over the prophets at each end of the chancel rail.

For the shepherd scene, lights under the front pews are used and one bulb for the shepherd’s fire. For the scene of the Nativity, candles on the altar are lighted and all the
footlights in the chancel are used.

COSTUMES: – Costumes are provided for all the characters. Each shepherd has a ragged blanket about his shoulders and a headpiece. The Kings wear turbans, robes, and capes. Mary has blue homespun over her head, and Joseph has a piece of striped [homespun] blanket over head and shoulders.

All wear sandals which are made by the boys.


Page 1 [nativity_play-001.jpg]

CAST OF CHARACTERS

Virgin                                                   Second Shepherd
Joseph                                                 Third Shepherd
Prophet I                                             Fourth Shepherd
Prophet II                                            Fifth Shepherd
King I                                                    Lad
King II                                                   Blind Boy
King III                                                  Simeon
First Shepherd                                   Mother and Child

* * *

IT CAME UPON THE MIDNIGHT CLEAR – Congregation

SCRIPTURE READING – Christmas Story from Luke II: 8-14
Congregation –

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. The angel said unto them, “Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will toward men.”

THOU DIDST LEAVE THY THRONE – Congregation (3 Stanzas)

The prophecies, recited antiphonally by two boys, standing on either side of the chancel in the half light, wrapped and hooded in blankets. lights over prophets only. — off in rest of Church.

Isa. 40:1, 2 – Comfort ye, comfort, ye, my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.


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2

40: 9 – O, Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountains;

40: 9 — O, Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountains; Oh, Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid, say unto the cities of Judah — Behold your God.

40: 11 — He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom and shall gently lead those that are with young.

35: 5,6 — Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing.

40: 10 — Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him, behold his reward is with him, and his work before him.

51: 11 — Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return and come with singing unto Zion, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads: they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.

52: 7 — How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings: that publisheth peace: that saith unto Zion — Thy God Reigneth.

52: 8 — Thy watchman shall lift up the voice: with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion.

9: 10 — Break forth into joy: sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem for the Lord hath comforted his people: he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

11: 1,2 — And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots; and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.

11: 5 — And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.

11: 6 — The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid: and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together: and a little child shall lead them.

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3

40: 4 — Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough place plain.

60: 18 — Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy wails salvation and thy gates praise.

60: 20 — Thy sun shall no more go down: neither shall thy moon withdraw itself; for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.

9: 6 — For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the mighty God, the
Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

9: 7 — Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it and to establish it, with judgment and justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this.

O COME, O COME, EMMANUEL — Congregation

THE SHEPHERD SCENE
(Dim lights)

(A group of shepherds standing, sitting, walking about a fire)

1st Shepherd

Ah, cold is this weather,
My feet are frost bit,
My hands are chapped,
Times be hard for us poor men.

2nd Shepherd

Right you are, and my heart is heavy,
My little maid Miriam lies sick,
I would I could have stayed with her.
But how shall I keep a handful of fire
There where she lies, if I do not mind the sheep?


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4

3rd Shepherd

Yes, the sheep are our life;
Without them, no wife, no home, no child.
And cold though it be,
This life suits me best.
Not for me fishing on the lake,
And peddling the fish through the town.
I stay by the sheep.

4th Shepherd

My mother says if King David
Had not been a shepherd, perhaps
No one would have made the Psalm she likes best — ‘The
Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.’

1st Shepherd

Well, ’tis the best life I know,
But that makes my feet no warmer.
Lad, mend up the fire.

The Lad (building up the fire)

Let me take the midnight watch tonight.
I feel not the cold. I would watch for
the star my father told me of. Last night
I was sure one shown brighter than its fellows.

4th Shepherd

Yes, thy father Ezra told me too, when I
was small, that a great star, more golden
than any other, would appear when the Messiah
is born. Let us watch for it again.

1st Shepherd

Talk not of the Messiah.
Do you mind how the prophet Isaiah
said he would make the ears of the deaf
to be unstopped and the eyes of the
blind to see? My father was blind, my
brother is blind, my son is blind. Never
have they seen light of sun or moon or stars,
or looked upon the faces of those who love them.
In weariness have my mother and I waited all the
days of our lives for one to come and unseal
their eyelids. But my son will wait in vain
as we have waited.

THE LAD

But do you not mind that a thousand years
are with the Lord as a day?

1st Shepherd

Yes, but to the blind a day is as a
thousand years. The eyes of Jehovah are
turned from Israel. No Messiah will come.


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5

2nd Shepherd

Would that he might! My little maid Miriam
might rise from her bed if he but passed the house.

5th Shepherd

This is a fair night. I mind how David wrote
of the glories of the moon and stars.

2nd Shepherd

For me, sleep and forgetfulness of sorrow.

3rd Shepherd

Aye, for me too; call me for the second watch.

1st and 2nd Shepherds sing 3rd stanza of “Cometh at Length the Age of Peace”. (during which the star appears)

Cometh at length the age of peace,
Strife and sorrow now shall cease.
Prophets foretold the wondrous story
Of this heaven-born Prince of Glory.
Shepherds, the chorus come and swell!
Sing Noel! Oh, sing Noel!

(The Lad begins his watch and the star is turned on.)

The Lad (in a low voice to 5th Shepherd, pointing to star)

There is the Star. Shines it not brighter than any your or I have seen?

5th Shepherd

Yes! So bright a one I never saw before.
Can it foretell His coming?

The Lad

Let us wake our brethren.
Brethren, awake! Behold the Star!

1st Shepherd

Surely it is the Wisemen’s Star!
The Lord be praised!
Whence comes this light? I fear!
(Drops on his knees)

(The Angels begin to sing, softly, then welling. They sing as a round, “Glory in the Highest, Glory, Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men”, using the theme of “Freude, Schoner Gotterfunken” from the Ninth Symphony)


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The Lad (As Angels begin singing)

Listen — A song in the air.

(They all kneel during the Angels’ song)

5th Shepherd (rising)

A heavenly host! it was here but now.
My brethren, He has come!

4th Shepherd (rising)

Let us go to Bethlehem and see this
thing which has come to pass.

2nd Shepherd

But the flocks?

4th Shepherd

The Lord will care for them. Hasten all!

(All rise)

1st Shepherd

My lad, my lad! He shall go to the Messiah.
He shall see his mother’s face.
I will overtake you.

(Runs off to find his boy)

The Lad

Haste and bring him. We will await you outside the city.

(Exeunt all the shepherds)

All the lights are now extinguished, the prophets turning out bulbs above them.
(Pianist softly plays melody of lullaby below)

Joseph, Mary and the Angels take their places. The manger is already in place, and there have been no lights in the chancel up to this time. Bulbs of footlights in the chancel are turned on.

Simeon lights the seven branched candlestick on the altar.

Lulllaby: VIRGIN — (Unaccompanied) “Lullay, thou little, tiny child.” (Coventry Carol in Stainer’s “Carols Old and New.”)


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1st Shepherd

Glory to God! Hast Thou come, Thou darling,
and wilt thou unstop his eyes?

(Kneels, kisses baby’s hands, thrusts his son toward the manger)

Mary (Heartful of pity, expecting no miracle)

And can thy little lad see not at all?
Ah, poor little one! Here, thou shalt
hold my boy’s tiny hand.

(She places the boy’s hand upon the baby’s hand)
(The boy cries out in wonder and fear)

Boy

My father, my father, I see Him, the Messiah!
(Turning to father) I see thee, my father!
(Mary puts her arm around the child.)

1st Shepherd (kneeling)

The Lord be praised! Thou little sweet one,
forgive my doubting heart. My boy shall
follow thee always and save they baby steps.

(Enter other shepherds)

4th Shepherd

Hail! Young child!
See, he is merry.
He laughs, the sweeting.
I give him greeting.
These mittens are for these.

2nd Shepherd

Hail, sovereign Savior,
I have brought a ball to my Bairn.
Hail, little tiny one, I go to fetch my child to thee. (Goes out)

The Lad

Hail, darling!
I pray thee be near when I have need.
Hail! Put forth hand.
I bring thee a bird, thou little day-star.

Mary

He is born to keep thee
From sorrow and harm,
See, child, how he smiles on thee.

3rd Shepherd

Farewell, Mother, fair to behold,
With thy babe on thine arm.

(They turn to go. Kings begin singing and Shepherds wait for them.)
Singing — “We Three Kings”


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The Kings come from the back of the church during the first verse and stand at entrance of chancel. Each king as he sings his verse, approaches the manger and makes his offering, falling back to make room for the next. The congregation sings the chorus of each verse.

Re-enter Second Shepherd with child in arms and mother at elbow.

OH, LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM — Congregation

Second Shepherd places little child’s hand on Jesus’ feet. She rises in his arms, flings her arms about his neck, then her mother’s. Mother kneels and gently pulls child down to her.

Simeon

“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant do part in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the Glory of thy people Israel.”

OH, COME, ALL YE FAITHFUL — Congregation

(At the second verse, congregation comes to the manger with gifts, and leaves the church, the figures in the chancel remaining till the end.)


Return to GUIDE TO CHRISTMAS AT PMSS

SEE ALSO:

CHRISTMAS NATIVITY PLAY SCRIPT II

CHRISTMAS NATIVITY PLAY CASTS THROUGH THE YEARS